An Oscar winner for best foreign-language film, this moving 2008 Japanese drama stars Masahiro Motoki (Shall We Dance?) as an unemployed young cellist in Tokyo who inherits from his mother a home in a picturesque northern mountain town. After moving there with his wife, he stumbles into a career as assistant to an elderly ?encoffiner? (Tsutomo Yamazaki of Tampopo), someone who engages in the elegant ritual of dressing a corpse prior to cremation. The ceremony provides release for the mourners (as well as some unexpected comic moments), yet the profession carries a social stigma and tests the young man’s mettle. Director Yojiro Takita uses the changing seasons to echo the characters’ moods; the score by Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle) has a suitably majestic sweep. In Japanese with subtitles. PG-13, 131 min.
PG-13 • 2009