- Japan 2003
- Original Title : Cha no Aji 茶の味
- Director/Writer : Katsuhito Ishii
- Production Company : Grasshoppa! Films
- Runtime : 2h 23 min
When The Taste of Tea was first released in my nearby indie-film theatre, the only information displayed was that director Katsuhito was the man behind the gruesome animated sequence in Tarentino's Kill Bill and that one of the actors had played Kakihara in Ichi the Killer. From that premise, I expected to come out heart thumping, with blood splattered on my shirt - instead, I went home all dreamy-eyed with a fossillized moronic grin on my face.
This film is a gem. In a better world, this film would reap the box office and award bonanza. Its plot is basically non existent. The story revolves around a family, the Harunos, living in the quiet countryside just north of Tokyo. Most of their free time seems to be spent drinking tea on their house's front porch or playing Go. The beauty of rural Japan blooms all around them and throughout the movie it feels like you're missing out on it, and should pick up some Stressed Citizen's Guide to Better Living. Then come the inserts. Surreal CGI sequences, secondary hilarious intrigues, and out-of-the-ordinary quirky scenes instantaneously take on and manhandle all of cinema's habitual grammar to push the film into the realms of the genuinely visionary. The zaniest of those inserts is the hilarious tale of the slacker uncle and the vindictive yakuza ghost, but i'll say no more, you just need to see it.
All the characters of the Haruno family have their own inner side stories, as we begin to find out, and the movie binds them together like patchwork
. The youngest little girl starts hallucinating a giant version of herself following her everywhere she goes, the rational teenage son becomes smitten by a new city girl who comes to his school (Tsuchiya, also seen in Kamikaze Girls
) and goes batshit hormonal, the hypno-therapist dad has his wacky fantasies as well, while the hard-working mother bases her manga
animation design on poses suggested by the eccentric grandpa (artificially-aged actor Tatsuya Gashuin
). The grandfather, strangely enough, seems to be the most sagacious, liveliest, and craziest of them all, often weirding out the rest of the family and breaking into songs.
The lyrics of these, as the director himself puts it "are basically stuff I'd blurt out in the bathroom when I'm drunk".
So there you have it, an unconventional movie with a conventional title, and little release, which manages to somehow pay homage to both Japanese techno pop culture and the country's timeless traditions, to conquer through character rather than plot. Highly recommended.
For more info:
Imdb - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0413893/
Official Website - http://www.ttt-movie.com/