‘Cherry Blossoms’ takes German couple on a charming trip to Japan

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, March 5, 2009 5:51pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

A somewhat aggressively nice film, “Cherry Blossoms” won the audience award at last year’s Seattle International Film Festival, a win that suggests the crowd-pleasing nature of this German movie.

But not entirely German: Call it Japanese-infused German. Director Doris Dorrie, who scored an international hit 20 years ago with “Men…” and has lately been making Zen-inflected documentaries, fashioned this tale around her own interest in Japan.

We meet an older couple, probably on the verge of retirement. Trudi (Hannelore Elsner) and Rudi (Elmar Wepper) live in a small town, a life choice that meant Trudi gave up her dream of studying Butoh dance.

One of them is terminally ill, which leads to a series of travels. For a while, Dorrie deliberately evokes the plot of a classic Japanese film, Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story,” which has older parents visiting their ungrateful, disengaged adult children.

Eventually Dorrie travels to Japan, where the couple’s favorite son lives — for whatever reason, he’s gotten as far away from his parents as possible.

Within the jumble of Tokyo, a kooky street dancer (played by kooky Aya Irizuki) connects with the main story. She practices a kind of performance-art version of Butoh and lives in a cardboard-box enclave somewhere near the park where she performs.

How this all works out into a satisfying conclusion in the shadow of Mount Fuji is not always predictable, which is a point in Doris Dorrie’s favor. Elsewhere she seems a little too eager to use caricatures to keep her tale moving, especially with Trudi and Rudi’s children.

The movie’s hard to pin down. At times I thought it was too easy in its conclusions, and in Dorrie’s obvious infatuation with Japanese culture. An outsider’s view can be interesting, but this is exotica.

And yet, she gets little behavioral details right, and above everything else, the age and experience of Elsner and Wepper makes a difference. These aren’t people going through a mid-life crisis, but folks who have lived their lives.

In the end, “Cherry Blossoms” is more charming than deep. But there’s room for charming.

“Cherry Blossoms” ½

German director Doris Dorrie follows a couple sorting out issues of mortality while visiting their ungrateful children. Eventually, the road leads to Japan — which is somewhat caricatured, as are the characters. But what the movie lacks in depth it definitely has in charm. (In German and Japanese, with English subtitles.)

Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for nudity.

Showing: Varsity

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