Review: ‘Kusa No Ue No Shigoto’

Reviewed at Vancouver Intl. Film Festival, Oct. 5, 1993. Running time: 42 MIN.

Reviewed at Vancouver Intl. Film Festival, Oct. 5, 1993. Running time: 42 MIN.

With: Naoki Goto, Hikari Ota.

Content, form and execution are perfectly married in this miniature meditation on labor, desire and individuality, which grabbed the grand prize at this year’s short-pic fest in Kobe.

Story throws together two grass-cutters, assigned to mow an untamed field so huge that it recedes into the far horizon. One’s a veteran greensman (Naoki Goto) with a working-class background, military bearing and authoritarian inclinations; the other’s a middle-class novice (Hikari Ota) on leave from college, and infuriatingly passive when it comes to learning his task.

They don’t hit it off. Still, the vet’s browbeating produces a curious obstinacy in the student, and he begins to suspect there’s more going on than bourgeois laziness. When they break for lunch, the mismatched pair form an uneasy, mildly sensual rapport.

Lensing and other tech values are merely adequate, but helmer Shinohara (who earned his stripes as an assistant director in Japan’s collapsed apprentice system) makes masterful use of luxuriant rhythms and oblique humor to build his quirky parable.

The two young leads provide top-notch thesping. Pic’s odd length and format indicate an unlikely arthouse traveler, but the classy “Work” is a natural for pubcasting packages worldwide.

Kusa No Ue No Shigoto

(JAPANESE -- 16mm)

Production

A Pictures Up production. Produced by Tetsuo Shinohara, Akemi Sugawara, Shogo Ueno. Directed, written by Shinohara.

Crew

Camera (color), Ueno; editor, Yoko Nishioka; music, Hiroyuki Murakami.
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