Monday, November 3, 2014

MOVIE RECOMMENDS - Love Letter 1995

Today I am going to recommend something sentimental for the upcoming cold season (or rainy season for us at the equator)....

Love Letter (1995)

Directed & written by: Iwai Shunji
Cast: Nakayama Miho, Toyokawa Etsushi, Han Bunjaku, Shinohara Katsuyuki, Sakai Miki, Kashiwabara Takashi

Iwai Shunji has crafted quite the artistic piece here. Beautifully cinematographic movie: white snow whispering down the sleepy frozen town of Otaru.... light softly streaming through the trees... even the normally dreary classroom appears romantic. The soundtrack is hauntingly pleasant, I'd say much of the success of the movie also lies in the atmospheric music composition. Every song conjures up different scenes of the movie and also nostalgia. The pace was fitting, the unraveling of the story's plot is wonderful. The ending is wrapped up perfectly.

The story:

Watanabe Hiroko (Nakayama Miho) attends the second death anniversary of her fiance, Fujii Itsuki. She has not gotten over his death and in his bedroom she flips through his high school yearbook. She discovers his old home address in the yearbook, and decides to write a letter to him. The house did not exist anymore as there was a highway built over it. With hopes that her letter would reach heaven, she wrote: "Dear Fujii Itsuki, how are you? I am fine.".

Surprisingly she receives a reply that read, "I am fine, but have caught a cold."!

**Spoilers ahead**

Was her letter actually delivered to heaven? Or was it a prank? The truth was neither. The reply was certainly from a Fujii Itsuki - except that 'he' is a she. A case of mistaken identity... there were two Fujii Itsukis in the same class, one boy one girl.

Upon discovering the truth, Hiroko continues to correspond with female Itsuki, unawares female Itsuki resembled her (Nakayama Miho plays dual roles). She requests for the latter to share her memories of male Itsuki during high school.

The story then proceeds in semi-narrative style, on how both Itsukis were ridiculed to no end in school for three years.

I believe this is the scene most people remember or at least it's the one I like best:

The library scene! The school library is the pivotal point for their off-beat relationship. I like the "Maybe we can be friends, if only we didn't have the same name!" look from female Itsuki (Sakai Miki). It was short-lived though lol.

This is also one of the signature imagery from the movie, I thought it had an ethereal quality to it. It's no wonder Kashiwabara Takashi was tagged Japan's bishounen (pretty youth) of the 20th century, he is very good looking and resembles a manga character. I'm a fan of his drama "Itazura na Kiss"(1996), yes only the original Irie Naoki please.

Love Letter's visual and mirrored symbolism are apparent in many parts of the movie, emphasising on forgotten & reliving memories, lost chances & second chances, the seasons & colour palettes distinguish moods with the use of appropriate filters. The small bits of humour from the flashbacks are a nice touch to balance out the sentimental parts of the movie.

Nakayama Miho, of course, is outstanding, moving and natural. Both roles are so distinctly portrayed one might imagine they were played by different actresses. Toyokawa Etsushi who plays Akiba Shigeru, Hiroko's and male Itsuki's friend, is energetic, fits his role perfectly and ever popular. The two young Itsukis were movie debuts: Sakai Miki is a pretty charm to watch, while Kashiwabara Takashi, the wierdo with little dialogue but so memorable there are still people reminiscing about Fujii Itsuki by the window curtains. Another supporting character, a kooky schoolmate played by Suzuki Ranran stole the show whenever she appeared. This movie is highly recommended for a gloomy day! Maybe I will watch it again.

 Original Trailer (Eng subs)


1996 Japanese Academy Awards - Newcomer of the Year (Miki Sakai)
1996 Japanese Academy Awards - Newcomer of the Year (Takashi Kashiwabara)
1996 Japanese Academy Awards - Most Popular Performer (Etsushi Toyokawa)
1996 Blue Ribbon Awards - Best Actress (Miho Nakayama)
1996 Kinema Junpo Awards – Best Film (Shunji Iwai)
1995 Hochi Film Awards - Best Actress (Miho Nakayama)
1995 Hochi Film Awards - Best Supporting Actor (Etsushi Toyokawa)
1995 Toronto Film Festival - Audience Award
1996 Japanese Academy Awards - Best Film
1996 Japanese Academy Awards - Best Music (Remedios)
1996 Japanese Academy Awards - Best Supporting Actor (Etsushi Toyokawa)

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