MAILED: April 25, 2000
At a way station between Earth and heaven, guides help the newly dead sift through their memories for a defining moment to take with them in "After Life," a 1999 film that will screen May 4-7 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Directed by Kore-eda Hirokazu, the Japanese film (subtitled in English) will be shown at 6 and 8:30 p.m. in Davies Theatre.
Critic Roger Ebert called it "a beautiful film, a touching one and a profound one. Not often do we get to have such an experience at the movies. On the basis of 'After Life' and 'Maborosi,' Kore-eda moves, in my list, to the ranks of the greatest directors around."
"After Life" opens as a group of young, casually dressed staff members arrive for another day's work at what appears to be a drafty old high school. Some two dozen clients, ranging from a bubbly teenager to a dour businessman to a serenely senile woman, check in. They are offered condolences on their recent deaths and told they each must select a treasured memory. It will be recreated on film, and they then will take that single recollection into eternity.
In contrast to the pomposity and preciousness of most celestial cinema, "After Life" offers a modest, human-scaled vision, shot in a semidocumentary style without special effects. The memories chosen are touching and often unexpectedly humble, with a haiku-like sense of distilled perception. The staff members take notes, prepare shooting scripts, and concoct makeshift effects with limited resources.
"After Life" comments on the link between movies and memory, and its wide-ranging recollections constitute an intimate, informal history of 20th-century Japan. But the film's central concern is the fragility of memory and of life itself, with a uniquely involving power to make us look inward and reconsider our own lives.
Presented by the UW-Eau Claire International Film Society, the 118-minute color film is not rated.
Tickets, available at the University Service Center, (715) 836-3727, are $2 for International Film Society members and UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff or $1 for UW-Eau Claire students.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: May 2, 2000