Let’s talk about life in laughter
Though in his seventies, the director Yoji Yamada is still enthusiastic about films and committed to constantly producing excellent works for the audience. The family-serial productions starting from the Tokyo Family in 2013, and then the same cast presented What A Wonderful Family! In 2016, which has raised much resonance in the Japanese society and received favorable comments in Asia. The film pays attention to each and every aspect of elderly people’s real life, which, I believe, must be the outcome of Director Yamada’s life reflection mingled with his passion for creation.
Therefore, in 2017, taking the high reputation of What A Wonderful Family! as an opportunity, the director has filmed a sequel of it, which will be screened at the 20th Shanghai International Film Festival. Fortunately, I get a chance to watch it beforehand. I have to say, I am totally moved and intrigued by the lifelike performance of every character in the film. Yoji Yamada always believes that it is easy to tell a story in tears, but hard to tell it in laughter. Since living in this world is already tough enough, maybe it’s better to communicate something through smiles. From this perspective, I think What A Wonderful Family! 2 is more enchanting than the last one, for only the life attitude showed by an old man embracing a young dream, when he faces death, deserves to be called the presentation of drama and the true essence of life.
In a sophisticated, open-minded and wise way, Yoji Yamada teaches the common people about life through the story woven by images. Cherishing the here and now, caring for the families and respecting our natural instincts have formed our entire life. They are too ordinary to be noticed and valued, but when encountering with death, the most trivial and insignificant banality becomes the most touching memory. Director Yamada’s works make us laugh and cry, cry and laugh, such a rare watching experience.
The movie starts from the old man Shuzo prohibited from driving, but too stubborn to quit. When his wife goes to Europe to see the aurora, he secretly makes an appointment with the bar owner for a picnic. A car accident occurs on the way, and the old man happens to meet his primary school classmate Ginnpei. For the first time in 50 years, Shuzo and Ginnpei drink alcohol together at the bar and recall the past. When talking about the school beauty, it turns out that Ginnpei, though down and out now, has lived an envying life before. He once married to the girl and had a daughter, but was later divorced and life became hard for him from then. After the party, Shuzo lets Ginnpei stay at his house. However, Ginnpei passes away because of overdrinking, which disturbs the whole family in a Saturday gathering. The family members show different attitudes towards death, meanwhile a pure and refined Buddhist living philosophy is spelled out by Shuzo: the end point of a life is often its start point. Seeing Ginnpei dying alone, Shuzo find him so happy living in such a big family with so many children and troubles.
For the director, What A Wonderful Family! is a life motif whose charm never diminishes with years going on; instead, it grows with each day passing on. The details, characters and plots in the film gradually emerged in the director’s leisure time, lingering on his memory and becoming something unforgettable. Then, they are converted into footages and stay in the audience’s mind. Probably, that is the intention of the director.
In the work, Yoji Yamada accomplished his consistent target of creation, or even his ultimate goal. He wants to announce to the audience and the whole world through his world of images: Say Goodbye to the past in smiles! For the past 15 years, I have watched almost all the films of Yamada’s, ranging from history to reality, from warriors to common people. Each of them has a distinctive style and view, but is also deeply imprinted with his own color. He has created the poetic image style, and managed to transform the reality into refreshing and touching sketches. As the modern master of oriental civilization, what he has produced is the treasure of Japanese films. However, while keenly looking forward to his works, I am also worried that such masterpieces will be fewer and fewer since one day, the director will be too old to create.
Yoji Yamada is declaring his invariable original intention with optimistic and interesting films: he is a person fascinated by shooting films solely. Go and watch his new production, and recollect the people in your memory in laughter and tears.