September 26, 2006
Kihachiro Kawamoto's second feature film, The Book of The Dead, tells the story of Iratsume, a Japanese noblewoman, who copies the sutras of Buddha to seek further enlightenment. After she copies a sutra for the thousandth time, strange occurrences begin. Iratsume's visions lead her to a temple at which most of the story unfolds.

The story truly unfolds like a flower, with a quiet intensity and lasting beauty that stay with the viewer long afer the film ends. Like other works in a career spanning four decades, the 81-year-old Kawamoto's stop-motion animation in this film imparts a careful consideration of its theme and no action is wasted. While certain aspects of the storytelling may be more familiar to people who already have an understanding of some of the elements of traditional Japanese storytelling, it is equally enjoyable and can be followed without a grasp of these conventions.

You'll be reading and hearing more about Kihachiro Kawamoto's work on fps soon. For Montrealers who would like to see this film, there is a special screening tonight at 7:30 at the Cinémathèque Québécoise with the director in attendance. The screening is free, thanks to Frédéric Back and Hubert Tison, the director and producer, respectively, of such films as The Man Who Planted Trees and The Mighty River, but you must call 514-842-9768 extension 370 to reserve your seat.

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Thank you for focusing on this film. Kawamoto's one of the last great masters working at his height. I met him back in the '70s when he came to the Japan Society in NY. He took several of his delicate, beautiful puppets out of a box and passed them around the audience. They were stunning, and that was memorable.

I have a hard time understanding why this didn't get the award for Best Feature, but I suppose most people today are impatient with anything that moves at a natural pace.
It was also a tricky year for features at the Ottawa festival. You can't get more different than The Christies, The Book of the Dead and Codename Kids Next Door (which I didn't see). All three films go in three completely different directions. I'd have liked for The Book of the Dead to have won, but I don't know if I can say that The Christies didn't also deserve it.

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