TIFF The Cowards Who Looked To The Sky The Time Being

13 Sep

Image I have been lucky enough to see these 2 great films at the Tiff. The directors were present for Q & A at the end of the films and were genourous in there insights

ImageThe Cowards Who Looked To The Sky is a wonderful combination of both struggle and hope in modern day Japan. Sex is central to this film and is a great prism to see the characters and their development through.  It deals with issues of bullying, a uneducated underclass full of frustration, despair and yet a sense of hope that even if life may not get better it can still be lived. The acting is restrained and the characters are imbued with if not hope at least a gritty determination to carve themselves some space.  The director revisits scenes to add different characters perspectives. It is wonderfully shot and edited.  The soundtrack ( as in most Japanese films I see) was understated. I look forward to seeing this film again when commercially released in Canada

This is the programmers notes on the TIFF site;

“Based on the award-winning novel of the same name, director Yuki Tanada’s The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky is a boldly erotic yet movingly tender portrait of a group of damaged people — mothers, sons and lovers — whose intersecting stories yield both sorrow and a fragile, yet enduring, hope for a brighter future.

Anzu (Tomoko Tabata) is a depressed housewife whose days are spent undergoing fertility treatments and enduring her mother-in-law’s nagging and her husband’s indifference. Channelling her dissatisfactions into rabid anime fandom, she attends a convention costumed as her favourite character. There, she meets a handsome high-school boy named Takumi (Kento Nagayama), whom she seduces (while still in her character’s outfit). The two begin an affair, and the secret trysts with her young lover become Anzu’s only escape from her grim reality. After a classmate confesses that she is in love with him, Takumi resolves to not see Anzu anymore — but he soon realizes that the attraction he feels for Anzu might very well be true love. He and Anzu resume their affair, but when one of their secret encounters is filmed and uploaded to the internet, the consequences for both could be disastrous.

Meanwhile, Fukuda (Masataka Kubota), Takumi’s classmate and best friend, lives with his senile grandmother in a housing project, after his mother abandoned the two of them for a new boyfriend. Struggling to provide for himself and his granny by delivering newspapers and working at a convenience store after school, Fukuda finds himself in an even more desperate situation when a loan shark appears and demands that he settle his mother’s considerable debts.

With assured control, Tanada weaves together the stories of these vulnerable, variously wounded characters, who face a world that seems bent on destroying them. In an inverted mirror-image of Anzu’s infertility, Takumi’s mother Sumiko (Mieko Harada) has devoted her life to midwifery, but is haunted by a lingering question: What is the meaning of the sometimes tragically short lives she helps bring into the world? If the film’s resolution leaves this question unanswered, it nonetheless makes it less daunting than hopeful. No one will leave this film unmoved.”


The Time Being was a visual immersion. This is a lovely film to look at not just see.  The colours are at times toned down and increase in  dimension as the film progresses. I will never look at water and liquids quite the same way.  Having just seen the film it is still percolating in my consciousness.  The acting is great and restrained. The cimematography is subtle and painterly.  The director builds  through conscious , restrained  thoughtful use of his  all his tools.

Here are the programmers notes for The Time Being;

“When a struggling young painter, supporting a family, finds that none of his recent canvases are selling, he is extended a lifeline in the form of an anonymous benefactor. So begins Nenad Cicin-Sain’s hypnotic and beautifully shot first feature, which goes on to explore an increasingly mysterious relationship between two men, one fighting to keep his head above water while the other takes stock of his life as he grapples with his own mortality. Featuring graceful performances by Frank Langella and Wes Bentley, this film is a visual treat, capturing the elusive stillness of painting as well as the shifting uncertainties of marriage, parenthood, and friendship.

Daniel (Bentley) is not only trying to make a living: he is also sparring with a wife who sees his self-absorption as a major stumbling block in their marriage. When one of Daniel’s pieces is bought and there is talk of an extra “commission,” he delivers his painting to an isolated mansion out in the mountains of Northern California and comes face to face with a man as self-obsessed as he is. Warner (Langella) is cold and distant; their relationship will be strictly professional. Knowing that Daniel uses photography for his paintings, Warner gives him very specific instructions: to film a sunset, or children playing, all at specific times and places. Daniel will be paid for his work. Warner is reclusive, and for a reason. As Daniel ventures out to fulfill Warner’s wishes, he begins to unravel the identity of his benefactor while confronting an identity crisis of his own.

As we soon come to discover, the past casts a shadow over this story. Or, to use Faulkner’s famous turn of phrase: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” And as Daniel executes his commissions, he confronts this very truth. But he also learns that the present is where his destiny lies.

Cicin-Sain’s mesmerizing direction allows him to circle around these two obsessive and repressed men as they wrestle with their demons, moving us through the haunted chambers of their minds as they put paint to canvas and give expression to their deepest feelings.”

These movies took me away and grounded in the wonderment of the mundane.  I hope to see them again.  Thank you TIFF

One Response to “TIFF The Cowards Who Looked To The Sky The Time Being”

  1. Kevin MacTaggart September 14, 2012 at 3:49 am #

    Well, they both sound like snorerszzzzz, but at least the first one has lots of sex (I hope they are babes at least) to keep up interest. Can’t wait to see them.

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