Cha no aji
UNCLE: It’s a pretty good story, right?
HAJIME: Yeah, weird… but cool.
—The Taste of Tea
DIRECTED BY: Katsuhito Ishii
FEATURING: Takahiro Satô, Satomi Tezuka, Tadanobu Asano, Maya Banno, Tatsuya Gashûin, Tomokazu Miura, Ikki Todoroki, Anna Tsuchiya
PLOT: A Taste of Tea follows the Haruno family living in rural Japan. The young son has his first crush; the young daughter has a giant doppelganger only she can see; the mother is attempting a comeback in her career as an anime artist; the father is a hypnotist who sends his subjects on psychedelic trips; and a visiting uncle is still melancholy from a romance that ended years ago. A grandfather with a thick gray unibrow and a permanent cowlick watches over the clan while practicing strange poses and singing nonsense songs.
- The title may come from a quote by the ancient Chinese poet Lu Tong, who said, “I care not a jot for immortal life, but only for the taste of tea.”
- Hideaki Anno (of “Neon Genesis” series fame) appears in a cameo as the anime director.
- This was Katsuhito Ishii‘s third feature film, but the first to attract much attention outside Japan. It played at Cannes and won awards at smaller festivals. Ishii had just come off directing the animated sequences for Quentin Tarantino‘s Kill Bill. His next project, 2004’s Funky Forest, was even weirder and more random than Tea.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Little Sachicko’s giant double, who silently and mysteriously watches her as she goes about her daily routine.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Forehead train; giant doppelganger; egg-head yakuza
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Katsuhito Ishii revamps the least weird genre of cinema, the familial drama, with gently surreal CGI and a narrative that wanders off into mildly scatological yakuza ghost stories, psychedelic hypnotism, and in-progress anime rushes, all watched over by a giant mute schoolgirl.
Clip from The Taste of Tea (2004)
COMMENTS: The family in The Taste of Tea do drink tea, occasionally, but they never comment on its taste. The film itself, however, Continue reading 343. THE TASTE OF TEA (2004)