Red Persimmons

  • 2001
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

It's hard to imagine that a film about something so esoteric as how permissions are dried in a remote Japanese village could have much relevance beyond it's narrowly defined subject, but that's just what makes this exquisitely beautiful documentary so remarkable. Subtitled "A Record of People Living with Persimmons," the film does indeed chronicle the journey...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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It's hard to imagine that a film about something so esoteric as how permissions are dried in a remote Japanese village could have much relevance beyond it's narrowly defined subject, but that's just what makes this exquisitely beautiful documentary so remarkable. Subtitled "A Record of People Living with Persimmons," the film does indeed chronicle the journey that begins in November, when the astringent fruit is plucked from the leafless branches, and ends in early spring when, now dried and braided into lengths of rope, the pricey delicacies are bundled in cellophane and readied for export. The process is oddly fascinating in its own right — and the sight of the ropes of persimmons dangling in the open air as they slowly dry makes for some exquisite imagery — but the film also touches on everything from conditions in rural Japan during the Allied occupation to man's ongoing struggle to design a better persimmon peeler. Most importantly, the film documents an age-old way of life that is gradually vanishing as these tiny provincial hamlets — some no bigger than five or six houses — are slowly transformed into ghost towns. Documentarian Shinsuke Ogawa and his filmmaking collective, Ogawa Productions, originally shot much of the footage seen here as part of the epic 1987 film MAGINO VILLAGE: A TALE, a four-hour documentary about growing rice in the Yamagata prefecture. Forced to cut the persimmons sequences in order to reduce the film's running time, Ogawa always intended to fashion the cut material into a separate film — leaving records of life in these tiny, disappearing villages had become a priority — but he died before he got any farther than a shooting script. The film was eventually completed by the Chinese director Xiaolian Peng — with assistance from Ogawa's wife, Yoko Shiraishi — and Ogawa couldn't have hoped for a more fitting testament to what he was trying to preserve. In the end, the finished film recalls nothing so strongly as William Carlos Williams' classic ode to the white chickens and the rain-slicked red wheelbarrow. There's something so crucially important about the way the wind blows across the persimmons as they're hung to dry, and yet so ephemeral that, sadly, most of the world will hardly notice once it has stopped.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: It's hard to imagine that a film about something so esoteric as how permissions are dried in a remote Japanese village could have much relevance beyond it's narrowly defined subject, but that's just what makes this exquisitely beautiful documentary so rema… (more)
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