The Film (4/5)
Mizuki (played by Eri Fukatau) is suddenly visited by her dead husband Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano), who mysteriously died at sea three ago. Puzzled by these strange events, Mizuki decides not to waste this second chance with her husband. Yusuke tells her about a magical place of endless beauty and suggests they leave everything behind to go to see it. On their way, they visit all the people that helped Yusuke. As they continue their journey, Mizuki starts to better understand life, death, and her powerful love for Yusuke.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa is best known in the States for directing the moody and bleak horror films PULSE (2001), THE CURE (1997), and for his unofficial remake of SÉANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON (1964), called SÉANCE (2000). While known as a master of horror, it’s surprising to see a ghost movie that’s not horror, but a gentle and sometimes heartwarming romantic story. As someone who has only seen his horror films, this opened my eyes to the artistry of Kiyoshi Kurosawa. JOURNEY TO THE SHORE is filled with visual references to the work of Stanley Kubrick. The whole movie is stylish and yet tender and playful. The use of colors and composition is breathtaking. The eye popping reds and blues in a scene involving a wall of paper flowers is a sight that will stick with me for a long time.
The mythos behind the ghosts in the film is a little odd and downright confusing. Ghosts seem to walk the earth with no problem. There flesh and blood, but at the same time their original bodies are destroyed, like in one scene where Yusuke describes how his body was eaten by crabs. The ghosts also seem to appear and disappear at random. It’s also hinted at that the ghosts have a limited time with their love ones before quickly disappearing. It’s by far one of the oddest set of ghost rules.
On the acting side of things, we get a deep layered performance by Eri Fukatau as Mizuki. At times questioning her own sanity, she has deep love for her husband. As the movie goes on she slowly let’s go of the past and tries to embrace life. Tadanobu Asano is likeable but a little too clean cut as Yusuke. It’s not a bad performance, just under written. Most of the action is seen through Mizuki’s eyes so it makes sense that Asano is a little wooden.
The only real complaint for the movie is its length. It’s slowly paced, which is fine, but it stills feels 20 minutes too long. The movie has a little too much fat story wise. It starts to repeat story beats and becomes confusing like the ghost mythos.
JOURNEY TO THE SHORE is a quiet and surreal ghost story that still feels upbeat and heartwarming. It leads to a bittersweet ending with plenty of food for thought. Kiyoshi Kurosawa still has enough tricks up his sleeve to keep pleasing and delivering wonderful films.
For a recent film, I’m glad to report that this release sounds and looks great. The movie comes with two audio tracks. First off is the 5.1 (uncompressed on the Blu-ray) Japanese track, which sounds amazing. No hisses or pops. You can hear an extreme fine level of detail, from different floor boards to the snap of falling poster flowers. The Second track is the 2.0 Japanese track. Both come with easy to read white English subtitles. The film has an 1080p HD transfer with gorgeous colors. The level of detail in every shot is breathtaking. The only issue is a few scenes have a sun flair effect that blurs the image. The movie has a duller grey color in some scenes but the blacks are well balanced and clear. A near perfect transfer. The DVD matches the Blu-ray expect the 5.1 track.
On the extras side things are pretty slim. We get an international trailer and a 24-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by Anton Bitel, Director’s Statement by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and Production stills.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa delivers an unusual love story, that may surprise fans of his films CURE and PULSE. Ultimately the movie is a refreshing, if not a little long, story about love and death. Eureka Has given this movie a gorgeous transfer in their Masters of Cinema series. Recommended.