Reviewed at Turin Intl. Young Cinema Festival (competing), Italy, Nov. 18, 1993. Running time: 105 MIN.
Namihiko … Namihiko Omura
Mother … Sachiko Hidari
Grandfather … Michio Kida
Sister … Kaoru Okunuki
Also with: Yoko Katori, Tsuyoshi Itoh, Emiko Yamamoto.
It’s hard to imagine a gentler, more contemplative riff on the industrialized world’s incompatibility with the artistic temperament than “The Singing Bamboo.”
Inhabiting a Zen plane somewhere between documentary and narrative, this languorous Japanese tract requires ascetic reserves of patience it’s unlikely to find beyond the fest circuit. World preemed at the Turin Young Cinema meet, soulful pic was duly lauded by jury and critics.
Entirely improvised from a four-page outline, story concerns a young bamboo-flautist (Namihiko Omura), intro’d in a long jazz-concert sequence. Leaving Tokyo to attend his sister’s hometown wedding, he agrees to stick around and take a factory job. But his musical calling lures him back to the city.
Dumped by his g.f. and turfed out by his harridan landlady, he wanders the streets. Pic’s remaining half flows almost totally without dialogue, with the amiably unruly, mostly hand-held camera trailing Omura as he narrowly escapes being hauled in for vagrancy. He finally finds his nirvana with a band of street musicians.
Fly-on-the-wall director Tetsu Kato is well served by the unself-conscious presence of Omura (himself a musician). One of the few seasoned thesps on hand, Sachiko Hidari has standout scenes as his single-minded mother. Music written by Yukihiko Mitsuka and performed by his Tone trio is a consistent pleasure. Kato has already announced plans for a sequel.