Cherry Blossoms was just one of 15 films I have seen this year at the Seattle International Film Festival, and it has beaten my previous favourite from the festival this year, 'The Home Song Stories', into first place. Cherry Blossoms was not just my favourite film of the festival, it has probably got to be the best film I have seen in a long time hands down. To be honest, when the film opened up with the cartoon like drawings of Mount Fuji I was a little dubious, but as soon as the first scene kicked in I was hooked! We are slowly drawn into the life of Rudi and Trudi Angermeier, opening up with Tudi being told by doctors that her husband does not have long to live and that maybe they should go on a vacation, an adventure. Through Tudi's character and voice over we begin to learn about who her husband is and what might make him tick. This is all done at the top end of the film before we move on to see Rudi and Trudi visit their children, now grown up adults with their own busy lives in Berlin. They have another son who lives in Tokyo who we meet later in the film. What follows is a very heart-felt exploration of an older couple very much in love. It was interesting to see how badly their children seem to treat them. We later find out in the film that is because their children believe that Rudi had kind of suppressed Trudi throughout her life and not let her do what she really wanted to do, instead she devoted her life to her husband and children. Whilst that may have been true on some levels, we also see a very different side between Rudi and Trudi in their intimate moments. They seem very much in love with one another and Trudi in particular seems to have been happy to have spent her life looking after the ones she loved. It seems like the children thought it was one way, but the reality was very different. I wonder how often that kind of assumption can come up in real family life? Probably quite common I would think. So just when we are enjoying the movie, and smiling as we get to know these people, a big twist happens. I won't tell you what it is, but I will say that I did not see it coming at all and it changes everything from that moment on. And here my friends, is where I have to stop incorporating elements of what happened in the film into my review, for fear of spoiling it for you. The film incorporated a lot of threads and various symbolic elements along the way, but none of them ever seem forced. They all fit nicely into the flow of things. There is a massive transition between where Rudi's character in the film starts out, and where he ends up. His journey is wonderful and it seems very natural. There isn't some kind of sudden flip, it is very gradual and perfectly done. Often in films when you let a scene drag on or spend too long telling one element of the story it can obviously seem very tedious and boring, but this was not the case here at all. Everything had it's own place and played it's part it helping to tell the story in a very natural and honest way. It takes a lot for me to cry when watching a film (I'm a guy!), but Cherry Blossoms did it for me, and I cried more than once. The reason for this I believe is two fold. The first being that as I watched this couple, I couldn't help but make my own personal connection to it. Thinking about my own relationship with my wife and how we may be when we get to Rudi and Trudi's age. The other reason is that you begin to care for these characters so much that when something happens to them, it makes you just want to physically reach out your hand and help them. This is all VERY powerful cinematic stuff! If a movie can take you on a sweeping ride where you laugh and cry, then that is a REAL movie! So many films you see are OK, fine, whatever, etc, etc, but it is very rare that you come across a film which really gives you something back in such a powerful way. I can see that the writer/director had a very intimate understanding of the people and places. Whether that be from personal experience or just observation and thought. Whatever the case, it was brilliantly executed. The film was so perfect, that when I go back and think about the film, I remember other elements I had forgotten about, elements which just make it so much more perfect in my mind. It really felt like the writer just sat down and poured out the film onto paper, not over thinking or analysing it all. The truth I would guess may be quite different, but I think that's part of the charm when you see a perfect film. It's so flawless that it looks almost effortless! From this moment forward, I shall be furiously stalking the works of the writer/director, because this is an artist to be reckoned with. Cherry Blossoms is a masterpiece which shall immediately be going on my very small list of all time top films that everyone should see!
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After Rudi's wife Trudi suddenly dies, he travels to Japan to fulfill her dream of being a Butoh dancer.
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September 25, 2019