SFF Film Review: Death Of A Japanese Salesman (2011)

There were some very audible sobs at the Dendy Opera Quays theatre yesterday in during the final scenes of Death Of A Japanese Salesman. What had begun as an intimate, comical reflection of a meticulous retired salaryman, this tender documentary, directed by its subject’s youngest daughter (Mami Sunada), became a rare and redemptive portrait of the last joys of a hard-worked life.

With an abdominal cancer diagnosis, the long-time Tokyo businessman Tamoaki Sunada begins to make plans for his death. He keeps a diary, that is used as the film’s narrative, read by his daughter Mami – a very affecting device – and makes plans for his service, and to see more of his beloved grandchildren, who more than anything, make him happy.

There are some candidly cheeky moments, when he admits he is only converting to Catholicism for equitable purposes; a Christian church service is simple and cheap. And his sharp, sarcastic reproach of his children’s efforts to console and cure him is expressed with a delightful wit.

The footage and imagery are used in an artful way, and is not at all manipulating, but very honest. The tragedy of his relationship with his wife, finally blossoming now that he is retired, and cut short due to his illness, is a love story that few could have made-up with such an endearing validity. There is little information available on this film but please keep your eyes and ears open for any future releases. I also did not get a chance to ask my old pal Hugo Weaving what he thought.

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