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Departing Is Such Sweet Sorrow

It’s easy to pigeonhole Japanese cinema into three categories: anime, samurai films, and horror. Everyone knows Spirited Away, Godzilla, and Ringu (later remade as The Ring in the United States). And everyone has at least heard of Seven Samurai. But in January, it was a Japanese drama, Departures, directed by Yojiro Takita, that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In fact, Japan hadn’t won an Oscar since 1955’s Samurai, The Legend of Musashi.

A story about learning to appreciate life through understanding death, Departures follows Daigo, a passionate cellist who loses his job after the mediocre orchestra in which he plays disbands. He finds work as an encoffiner, someone who prepares corpses before their cremation, but hesitates because the work is considered too low for someone of his status. In need of money, he takes the job anyway but keeps it from his wife and friends. What follows is a journey of growth and understanding about family, life, and respecting the dead. Sorry, there's no Samurai swordplay, but the film definitely deals with a code of honor.

Departures opens Friday at Sunrise Cinema Gateway, located at 1820 Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes vary; tickets cost $7.50 before 4 p.m. and $9 after. Call 954-763-7994, or visit
July 10-16, 2009

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