Run Time: 122 minutes
"American Beauty" may have its roses, but in Japan mum's the word. Or, more accurately, "atsumono" is. The word denotes a variety of chrysanthemum, the intricate yellow-white flower which is the Japanese national symbol ? and, to some, an obsession. Mr. Mano, a retired fireman, is a sedate old gentleman whose primary passion in life now is to cultivate a prizewinning bloom for the upcoming Chrysanthemum Appreciation Society annual contest. The flowers do seem to offer more companionship and reward for Mano than does his family ? a bitter, chronically-unfaithful wife, now in a clinic, and a heartless entrepeneur son. Mano strikes up an acquaintance with 19-year-old Miharu, an aspiring cellist, lonely and desperate in her parents' absence and turning to casual prostitution. She becomes a willing pawn in a lifelong rivalry between Mano and Kurose, a champion mum-grower who lives in seclusion but aces competitions year after year thanks to his own well-guarded fertilizer formula. Their hothouse relationship digs up the thorns in the carefully tended gardens of Mano and Kurose, the blight of aging in solitude, and both the folly and nobility of devoting oneself to attaining perfection ? if only briefly, in the petals of a flower. (In Japanese with English subtitles.)
Shunsaku Ikehata (based on the short story "Atsumono-zaki" by Yoshihide Nakayama).
Bong Ou Lee, Masaya Nakamura, Mizue Kunizane.
Shunsaku Ikehata. Music: Taro Iwashiro. Principle Cast: Ken Ogata, Yoshi Oida, Hijihiri Kojima.
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