The Great Passage (Fune wo amu) (NR)

Drama 133 min. December 13, 2013
By Inkoo Kang
The only thing that might make the 12-hour workdays of Japanese salarymen even more miserable is wasting all their efforts on perfecting obsolete products guaranteed to lose their companies money. Such is the lot of Mitsuya (Ryuhei Matsuda), the newest addition to a print dictionary department in a publishing firm. Mitsuya’s obsession with producing the best dictionary in the Japanese language keeps him focused and motivated, but the same can’t be said for his coworkers. Their frustrations with the treadmill-like nature of their work, which demands constant motion just to stay in place, make The Great Passage a compelling portrait of Japan’s stagnant economy and its disheartening effect on younger workers. Multiple rounds of proofreading, fact-checking, and slang-collecting all but consign the dictionary project to a cathedral-construction schedule. A lightly comic scene demonstrates the futility and strangeness of Mitsuya’s work when he and an older colleague eavesdrop on a conversation between teen girls at a fast-food restaurant. They describe something as “BL,” short for “Boys’ Love,” a fiction genre of romances between effeminate gay men targeted at female readers. That feeling of being stuck extends to Mitsuya’s dawdling courtship of Kaguya (Aoi Miyazaki), who shares with her suitor a quiet demeanor and grand ambitions. Kaguya is a chef, and her nontraditional relationship with Mitsuya is a response to her society’s hostility to working married women. If Japan’s “lost generation” can no longer find meaning in work, at least they can still find joy in one another.
Yuya Ishii Jo Odagiri, Kumiko Aso, Aoi Miyazaki, Ryuhei Matsuda, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kaoru Kobayashi, Kaoru Yachigusa, Kazuki Namioka, Hiroko Isayama, Shingo Tsurumi Shiwon Miura, Kensaku Watanabe


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