Monday, February 6, 2012

Norwegian Wood

You know a film directed by Anh Hung Tran ("The Scent of Green Papaya") is going to be slow. You know a film rated 74% fresh by critics, but only liked by 51% of Rotten Tomatoes audiences, is probably going to be boring at times. You're right: "Norwegian Wood" is long and slow and occasionally boring. Not a whole heck of a lot actually happens. But it's just pretty enough to recommend.

Set in and around Tokyo in 1967, the film tells the story of Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama), a Japanese student whose two best friends, Kizuki and Naoko ("Babel's" Rinko Kikuchi), are a couple. After Kizuki commits suicide early in the film, Watanabe goes on with life, while Naoko retreats into a world of half reality and half dreams and memories. They fall in and out of love. Other women also come through Watanabe's world, for various periods of time.

Mainly, "Norwegian Wood" is a movie of mood and of images. It's about Tokyo apartments with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and how they look when it's raining. And how it feels inside alone, and how it feels inside with someone you love. It's about a field of green, green grass blowing in a strong wind. It's about woolen caps and mittens and dozens of them - in every color you can imagine. It's about Japan in winter, and clumps of brown earth against pure white hillsides bulging with snow. It's about the sound of a young woman singing "Norwegian Wood" in very Japanese English.

I'd better stop now. I'm lapsing into Roger Ebert's review of "Stormy Monday"

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