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Departures (Okuribito) - arthouse and international DVD / foreign language DVD / drama DVD / Academy Award winning DVD review
DEPARTURES (Okuribito) Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 1/2 stars
Featuring: Masahiro Motoki, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ryoko Hirosue, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kimiko Yo
Director: Y˘jir˘ Takita   Distributor: E1 Entertainment
DVD release: 12 January 2010   Runtime: 130 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio tracks (Japanese - Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Subtitles (English)

Masahiro Motoki and Ryoko Hirosue in DEPARTURESMasahiro Motoki plays Daigo, a cellist who loses his job when his orchestra in Tokyo folds. Getting a similar job promises to be difficult; he was lucky to have gotten this job. Add to that the amazingly expensive cello he just bought, and things don't look good. He and his spirited wife, Mika (Ryoko Hirosue), sell the instrument and move back to the small town where Daigo grew up. His mother died and left him her old house, so he can get a job and they'll squeak by somehow. When Daigo finds a vaguely worded ad in the paper for a worker with no experience necessary, he decides to check it out.

He meets with The Boss (Tsutomu Yamazaki), an older man, and discovers to his chagrin that the job involves preparing the dead for being put into their coffins. The money is good, so Daigo gives it a try. The Boss carries himself with a quiet dignity necessary for the job and perfect for keeping Daigo involved in the position. The body is washed and clothed for burial, and through this procedure, the bereaved are able to let go of their loved ones.

This job is pretty low in Japan's caste system, so Daigo is careful to keep quiet about what he does. Mika is kept in the dark for quite a while, and when an old chum discovers what Daigo is doing for a living, he directs his child away from his old friend as if he were diseased. Daigo sees over time that this job is respectable and necessary, and he keeps on with it, though Mika leaves him to go back to Tokyo.

There is a slow, deliberate pacing to Departures, and the performances are excellent. The Boss commands respect, and he receives occasional outpourings of gratitude that help to make his work worthwhile. Daigo and Mika are a cute young couple who make mistakes in their marriage, and we witness the seeds of those mistakes. Departures is a wonderful film, full of humor, sadness and joy. It's no wonder it brought home the Academy Award for best foreign film.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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