An (Sweet Bean)

M Sinclair Stevens

The an of the title is a jam made of beans (in this case, red adzuki beans) which is used as a filling for all kinds of baked goods: anpanmanju, and dorayaki, a sort of jelly sandwich made with two small pancakes instead of slices of bread and an filling.

The story concerns three misfits from three generations, who come together in the making of dorayaki. The movie is leisurely slow-paced. Nothing much happens. The moral is summed up in the end, as one character addresses and comforts another.

“You know, boss
We were born into this world
to see it and to listen to it.
Since that’s the case,
we don’t have to be someone.
We have, each of us has,
meaning to our life.”

Directed by : Naomi Kawase Genre: Fiction – Runtime: 1 h 53 min French release: 27/01/2016 Production year: 2015

Reaction Elsewhere

The Japan Times

After watching it, I found this review in the Japan Times by Mark Schilling.Director Naomi Kawase has finally made a ‘real Japanese film’.

“…at Cannes, critics hurled adjectives like “insipid,” “fluffy” and “sentimental,” much as I expected them to. So-called real Japanese movies are an acquired taste.”

Mark Schilling

I’d add that Japanese film tends to be refreshingly “uncool”, lacking in Western-style cynicism.

The Guardian

Currently the film is running at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes but Peter Bradshaw writing in The Guardian really hated it: Japanese foodie movie with and insipid flavour.

“The film has an impeccable technical finish but it is insipid, contrived, sentimental, and ever so slightly preposterous.”

That British self-consciousness and uneasiness is probably as far from the Japanese sense of what makes a good story (or a good telling of it) as I can imagine. Yes, Japanese works often border on the “slightly preposterous”, even sometimes wandering into the realm of “magical realism”. The Japanese are also more comfortable mixing comedy and tragedy and, for them, both often border on the absurd.