A lushly-scored drama that takes an awfully long time to tell a rather simple story of family healing, "Bizan" compensates with a name trio of lead thesps and succulent widescreen photography of Tokushima and pic's titular mountain during Tokushima's August festival.

A lushly-scored drama that takes an awfully long time to tell a rather simple story of family healing, “Bizan” compensates with a name trio of lead thesps and succulent widescreen photography of Tokushima and pic’s titular mountain during Tokushima’s August festival. Beyond hardcore Japanophiles, main attraction will be actress Nanako Matsushima (from the original “Ring”), though here her perf is too cool and immaculate to be a fulcrum for pic’s deep-seated emotions. Asiaphile fests seem the best bet for this May release in Japan.

Tourism agent Sakiko Kono (Matsushima) flies down from Tokyo to Tokushima to visit her ornery mom, Tatsuko (vet Nobuko Miyamoto, from Juzo Itami’s movies), who’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Learning her father, Kojiro (Isao Natsuyagi, good), is still alive — after mom had always claimed he was dead — Sakiko sets out to track him down and hopefully re-unite the family before Tatsuko dies. Copious footage of Tokushima’s Awa Odori festival attests to generous aid from the local tourism bureau and could be substantially trimmed. Best and subtlest sequence is Sakiko’s first meeting with her dad, in which unspoken emotions are subtly conveyed.

Bizan

Japan

Production

A Toho release and production. (International sales: Toho, Tokyo.) Produced by Manabu Endo. Directed by Isshin Inudou. Screenplay, Inudou, Yukiko Yamamuro, based on the novel by Masashi Sada.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Takahiro Tsutai; editor, Soichi Ueno; music, Michiru Oshima; art director, Koji Seshita. Reviewed at Shanghai Film Festival (competing), June 20, 2007. Running time: 117 MIN.

With

Nanako Matsushima, Takao Osawa, Isao Natsuyagi, Nobuko Miyamoto.
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