Sweet Bean Screen 10 articles

Sweet Bean


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  • Kawase is a long-time Cannes darling and I may be alone in my emotional immunity to her films, but it needs to be said that this particular one feels extremely calculated in its effort to become an arthouse version of the popular inspiration-through-cookery genre that gave us "Babette’s Feast” and "Chef” at its best, and "Chocolat” and "Eat Pray Love” at its worst.

  • [Kawase's] latest efforts, by all accounts a lesser offense but no greater a piece of cinema, is a light and fluffy exercise in sheer sentimentality, the director’s bid to make her version of a film in the style of fellow Cannes regular Hirokazu Kore-eda — minus the rigorous formalism, and plus a lot of schmaltz.

  • Despite its scattered virtues (primarily the beautiful cinematography by Shigeki Akiyama), An is flat as a pancake, but lacks the paste: it strives to be an intimate, incisive portrait of three lost people learning to find some direction in their lives, but Kawase’s appetite for schmaltz swallows everything before it.

  • The result is a pleasant ride, but one that feels awfully middlebrow. The first half is painfully genteel, although it must be said that Kawase’s light touch and complete lack of “edge” are somewhat refreshing in a contemporary Japanese cinema full of male directors interested in genre tropes, sex and violence.

  • While this is Kawase’s most straightforward, accessible movie, it’s also perhaps her dullest, sustaining a single maudlin note for nearly two hours.

  • Just as “An” itself seems on the verge of flying away, Kawase rewards her audience with an unapologetically contrived but effectively eye-moistening surge of feeling. She is enabled to no small degree by the finely drawn work of her actors, including young Uchidan (Kiki’s real-life granddaughter), whose character bears the somewhat heavy weight of the film’s “find your own path” moralizing.

  • Some of the most entertaining food-themed films ever made have arrived from Japan over the past 30 years. “Sweet Bean” crosses this subgenre with the old-person-imparts-wisdom-to-younger-acolyte variety, but it is not typical of either kind of movie... The movie, beautifully shot and acted, earns its ultimate sense of hope by confronting real heartbreak head-on, and with compassion.

  • Despite its more sentimental tone, aesthetically the new film adheres closely to the template she established at the beginning of her career, with the phases of the protagonists’ shifting relationships relayed as impressionist fragments of everyday life against the changing seasons... But the director’s characteristically mawkish dialogue in the accompanying voiceover... may leave some viewers wishing that the centre of this latest confection were a little less cloying.

  • This maybe won’t be the film that has Kawase fast-tracked into the auteur A-leagues, but it certainly shows that she can “do” robust, conventional storytelling, and then add some late-game ingredients which serve to sweeten rather than sour the overall taste.

  • ...although the grade is a bit misleading. Yes, I appreciated Sweet Bean more than any of Kawase's other features to date... But I say this with some ambivalence. Sweet Bean works mostly because it is so much more conventional than Kawase's other films. She has framed her Shintoist experimentalism within a stodgy, deterministic plot that could have been retrieved from Kore-eda's reject pile. But the firm parameters actually help to ground Kawase's excursions among the cherry blossoms

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