Recently I've been reading Donald Richie's The Japan Journals 1947-2004, and in one entry he recounts a visit he made to the imperial palace to receive an award from the government. He has a short conversation with Princess Masako and tells her that he will send her two contemporary films that he thinks are especailly well-made: Hirokazu Koreeda's Maborosi and Makoto Shinozaki's Okaeri, both from 1995. I decided to see Maborosi first since Koreeda is a film festival regular and I have been wanting to see a film by him for some time. I was very impressed by Koreeda's first non documentary feature film, it is a very powerful first film. It features former volleyball player and model Makiko Esumi in her first starring role and she is impressive as a woman named Yumiko who is living with a haunted past trying to carry on in life with dignity and grace. She was married early to Ikuo (Tadanobu Asano), who is believed to have committed suicide by walking into a train only three months after the seemingly happy couple has had a baby. The films picks up several years later as Yumiko has been matched with another widower with a yong daughter in rural Kanazawa. She is still troubled by his apparent suicide while trying to continue on with her new husband and family in the harsh Kanazawa environment, which is also a place of great beauty. However, it is the cinematic approach to this film that makes it standout. Koreeda is obviously influenced by Ozu in his low camera angles used in houses and the way he frames scenes around doorways and windows. Furthermore, he uses an approach that Ozu had pioneered from Japanese poetry called "The pillow shot" which was inspired by "pillow words"( words that do not lead out of or into the rest of the poem but provide a resting place--it is considered a pause or punctuation). He often cuts away from the action to focus on something like a doorway, a street, a view, or a storefront. There are two direct homage sot Ozu: the first is a foreground shot of a teakettle and the second is a scene where a canal boat makes a sound almost identical to a sound used at the beginning of Ozu's Floating Weeds (1959). It is a powerful mediation on loss and moving on with life.