Time for a new Short Movie Time. This time, we review Atsuko’s second short movie, Wakare-Uta (2018). Without further ado, let us delve into this new short movie and see if Atsuko, by comparing it with her previous short Movie Ache (2017) has made progress as a movie-maker.Review
One day, a young Japanese lady (Atsuko) visits a shrine to do her prayer. Upon returning, a girl hits her, making our young lady lose her handkerchief and the cards that were hidden inside. The little girl takes the various cards from the ground and, contrary to expectations, runs away with them. A quest to get them back begins.
Wakare-Uta is a narrative that is inspired by Japanese religious traditions, i.e. Shinto-practices. The narrative frames normal religious practices as visiting shrines to pray, but also more specific practices like those associated with a Matsuri, e.g. bon-odori, fireworks, … etc..
As the narrative depends so much on the Japanese religious background, it should not come as a surprise that the little thieving girl’s appearance is linked to these religious places or these places where things associated with religion take place. Nevertheless, the first impression the spectator gets is that certain meetings (e.g. with a cat, with some friend, …) happen for no specific reason; Sudden meetings our young heroin lets herself be led by. In other words, there is a certain strange dreamy-like flow, a flow our woman heroin follows, that is nevertheless set in motion by the little girl and her unknown intentions.
While there is a super-natural reason – the little girl seemingly an apparition – in play, it quickly becomes obvious that the poem-cards and subsequent meetings of our heroin are connected – as each meeting causes a card to be returned. Furthermore, each card evokes the importance of pets, friends, lovers and parents in our lives. The retrieval of the very last card causes a very moving revelation about the intentions of our little girl and of our young heroin.
The cinematography of Wakare Uta features a pleasant mix of fixed shots, semi-fixed shots – shots with minor movements, and following shots. One sequence in Wakare-Uta has truly visually strong images, i.e. the sequence when our young heroin meets a young guy. These impressive images are solely created by the very interplay between the front-lighting, highlighting the hug between our heroin and the guy, and the background that is either colourful due to the fireworks or black, due to the lack of fireworks. While Endo shows again her artistic feeling, there remains room for improvement in the technical register. Like in her previous narrative, some cross fades are misplaced and confusing (Cine-note 1). But this time around – and this is where Endo shows her growth as movie-maker the most – the sound-design is consistent and the interweaving of music with the imagery fluid.
The fact that speech is almost non-existent in Wakare-Uta, logically puts the emphasis on the acting as such. While the acting is decent, some acting-gestures remain too obviously acted. But, luckily, these acted-moments do not derail the flow of the narrative or the emotions the narrative wants to evoke in the spectator.
With Wakare-Uta Atsuko proves she is improving – and has not come to a standstill as a movie-maker. While she is still on her personal path of seeking her own language with images and technical refinement remains necessary, Atsuko reaffirms, with this atmospheric and touching narrative, her artistic talent.
Cine-note 1: Cross-fades is normally used to separate sequences. So when Endo used a cross-fade within a certain scene it feels bit strange.
Cine-note 2: The cinematography and the structure of the narrative – besides both instrumental in creating the slow dreaminess of the narrative, also give Endo the possibility to explore how to frame surprise – and how to put the spectator in the same position of surprise as the main character.