Saturday, October 28, 2006

[Japanese Film Fest] Yoshino's Barber Shop (Barber Yoshino)

It's a Fad I Tell You!

In the village of Kaminoe, it's idyllic, quiet, everything looks quite normal. Except when you realize a quirky trait amongst the little boys - all of them are sporting this bowled hairstyle! And I mean ALL the boys! At first it looks quite cute, and the movie too, until suddenly, you start to question if this is something taken to the extreme. With the arrival of a new kid from the outside, sporting totally hip, dyed hair, herein lies the perfect catalyst for impending change, or is it?

On the surface, it may look like a children's story, with the group of boys befriending this new kid, and having a sort of peer effect on him to get his hairstyle changed to fit in, of course much to his reluctance. On the other hand, this individual's appearance in town made the boys rethink their norms of maintaining their hairstyles, no thanks to one of their moms, the matronly looking Yoshiko (Masako Motai), whose barber shop dishes out the standard hairstyle for all the boys in the village.

But like a recent Chinese movie Little Red Flowers, Yoshino's Barber Shop works at a deeper level as well. While children and folks not wishing to use their noodle can still enjoy the saccharine sweet storyline, episodes and admire the cinematography, those who wish to delve just a little bit deeper, will find a social commentary from writer-director Naoko Ogigami, on traditions and customs that we hold on too, despite their irrelevance in today's society. When questioned and challenged, those who hold these traditions dear, will nonetheless find it preposterous for someone else, especially from the younger generation, to question those customs. Sometimes when things are done in rote, or for the sake of doing, the rationales behind the festivals and tradition, will be lost in the hullabaloo of celebrations.

At times the movie did feel a bit slow moving, but it provided the space for additional, deeper thoughts. The finale was complete with wicked, dark humour, but it addressed the desires of youth quite aptly, with their wanting to be cool, and innate streak of rebellion inside to always want to challenge the norms, as that equates to being cool.

If you enjoy movies with kids playing the leads, then Yoshino's Barber Shop will rank up there with Little Red Flowers, in tackling similar adult themes in what seems to be a made for children's movie.

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