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Daigo Kobayashi is a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and now finds himself without a job. Daigo decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled "Departures" thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a "Nokanshi" or "encoffineer," a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and others despise the job, Daigo takes a certain pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of "Nokanshi," acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the family of the departed. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living. Written by
Beautiful and touching movie about life and death. My favorite movies dealing with the same issue are Akira Kurosawa's "Ikiru" and "Red Beard". Also, Juzo Itami's comedy "Funeral" is pretty good one. Same as these master's works, Director Takita successfully put good comedy elements in this serious film. The idea "Death is a gate for another world" may be based on Buddhism belief, but I am sure you can relate yourself to this story with your own experience of losing somebody important. Masahiro Motoki was at his best for the leading role. He once played similar role in "Sumo Do, Sumo Don't" by Director Masayuki Suo (Shall We Dansu?) in terms of being put in awkward situation, involved seriously and end up finding the virtue in it. Music score is by Joe Hisaishi. Great as always. He has done great jobs on films for Takeshi Kitano and Hayao Miyazaki. I am sure this will be the best Japanese movie in 2008. 10/10
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