Cherry Blossoms: Life and Death (but Mostly Death) in Japan

At least once a year, the canny distributors at Strand Releasing shell out for a crowd-pleaser to shore up their artier numbers. To kick off 2009, they've opted for the latest from German writer-director Doris Dörrie, who started out just dandy with the outrageous 1984 comedy Men and has settled for charming neo-hippie fripperies pretty much ever since. Life's rich impermanence looms large and heavy over this sweetly shopworn transformation parable about an aging, routine-bound bourgeois (Elmar Wepper) who adores his wife (Hannelore Elsner) but has never grooved to her love of Japanese butoh, an art form combining hippie culture with German expressionist dance. Believe it or not, the couple is called Rudi and Trudi, and no source of pathos goes unmined as Rudi, suddenly alone, travels to Japan to reconnect with one of his troubled children. Instead, with a homeless young butoh dancer (Aya Irizuki) murmuring spiritual nothings in his ear, he finds himself on an 11th-hour journey to healing at the foot of scenic Mount Fuji. The best I can say for Cherry Blossoms—winner of the Golden Space Needle Award at SIFF last year—is that it's made with love; the worst, that it's been a big hit in Germany. Yearning for Ozu, Dörrie stops off at cute, and parks.

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