Some thoughts on 『抱擁』”Walking with My Mother” (2014, Sakaguchi Katsumi) 

 This is not a review, but I felt the need to drop a few and random lines about『抱擁』(Walking with My Mother) a documentary made by Sakaguchi Katsumi about his mother Sochie. The movie premiered last October at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Here the synopsis from the festival’s homepage:

How do you live after losing your loved ones? Suchie (78) is distraught after losing her daughter and then her husband. Countless tranquilizers were given to calm her. Her son, Director Katsumi Sakaguchi, turns to his camera to understand her more. When Mariko arrives for the funeral and sees her sister’s despair, she decides to take her back to their hometown for the first time in 38 years. Here, Mariko devotes her life to her sister. Her son reveals four painful years of her distress and conflict through the camera. Grief always comes after the sadness of losing those closest to us. What rescued her from it?

  
Besides its main themes – the exploration of loss, sickness and memory in an society, not only the Japanese one, that is getting older and older – the main aspect of the documentary that soon, from the very first scene, struck me is a technical  one: its editing. It might sound strange and far-fetched for a work of this kind –  after all it’s partly a self-documentary and partly a home-movie, not at all an art-house work –  but the film is really packed with “action”, in the sense that the 93 minutes are full of happenings.The sickness, the pain, the panic, the death of Sochie’s husband (and director’s father) and the funeral, the suicide talk and the memories of the hard-working days, the return to her hometown and the rural landscape of Tanegashima, the devoted sister and the relatives, the hospitals and the doctors. All this, a fine selection of 4 years of shooting, is held together by a masterfully done editing, fast and rythmic even when the subject is “just” an old women moving around the house complaining about her bad health. This is the real “secret” of Walking with My Mother. It would be nice if we could count the cuts, it’s like the Violence at Noon of documentary, I’m exaggerating of course, but I can garantee that there is not a single cut longer than a minute, and that the average are about 10 or 15 seconds long. An interesting choice indeed by Sakaguchi, who opens up new aesthetic possibilities for self-documentaries or, more in general, non-fictions works made on the edge of home-movies. 

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