As Yuichi Suita’s latest short But It Did Happen (2022) did not fail to impress us, it is only logical that we make some time to explore his previous short films. This time around, we shine our light on How Beautiful Japanese Morning Is (2011), which screened at the 23rd Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival.
After reading the newspaper about the Tohoku earthquake, a woman (Reika Miwa) starts preparing her breakfast. Yet, while consuming her carefully cooked meal, an accident happens.
How Beautiful Japanese Morning Is is, at first glance, an exercise in staging the very mundanity of what could be called a traditional Japanese morning (e.g. the making of miso soup, making of a Japanese styled omelette,… ). Yet, make no mistake. Suita’s narrative does not offer the spectator a general truth concerning tradition. What How Beautiful Japanese Morning is shows is how one subject gives shape to cultural tradition and how a subject, born into the Japanese Other, creates her peculiar form of ‘Japaneseness’.
Sadly, the rhythm of the woman is disturbed when she accidently hits the soy-sauce bottle. Yet, what appears, at first, to be a simple mistake quickly comes to echo the transitoriness of life and the ever lingering presence of death in a powerful way. The flood of soy-sauce on the newspaper transforms, by swiftly obscuring the picture of the ravage caused by the massive earthquake, into a representation of the devastating tsunami that hit Fukushima and other places. How will she react to this confrontation?
The element of silence is also an important element in Suita’s narrative. Yet, the silence that permeates How Beautiful Japanese Morning Is is of a different quality. Rather than having a certain weight – reverberating the unvocalized conflict of the protagonist, the silence in this short functions as a support that elegantly emphasizes the ritualistic quality of her acts and allows these acts to attain a certain poetic quality. Moreover, the silence that surrounds the preparation and consumption of the Japanese-styled breakfast gives the narrative a certain intimacy and her failure its profound significance.
The composition of How Beautiful Japanese Morning Is is quite similar to the way he framed But It Did Happen. Suita, once again, offers a simple concatenation of static shots that stands out due to its engaging rhythm. Rather than refining his skill of applying the cut thoughtfully throughout the years, How Beautiful Japanese Morning Is proves that Suita masteredthe difficult task of constructing a pleasant compositional rhythm fairly early on.
The other elements that made But It Did Happen so visually pleasing are also utilized in How Beautiful Japanese Morning Is. The great lighting and colour-design makes Suita’s short very easy on the eye and the subtle use of depth-of-field further infuses a softness into the imagery that further heighten their visually appealing nature.
How Beautiful Japanese Morning Is does not only allow the spectator to get a better grasp on Yuichi Suita’s visual style, but also proves that he, already many years ago, fully understood the communicative weight of silence. By relying on silence to emphasize his elegantly created visual association, Suita succeeds in delivering a quite ironic exploration of the beauty of a Japanese morning.