Directed by Shûichi Okita
‘The Woodsman and the Rain’ is a delightful comedy from Shûichi Okita about unlikely friendships and the very human desire to always try new things, the latest deliverance in the UK from distributors Third Window Films creating a strong start to an already brilliant line-up of releases for them in 2013. With stereotypical grumpy old Japanese men, young clueless upstarts and a unique display of how filmmakers deal with zombies, this is a film that has something for all viewers.
Katsu (Koji Yakusho) plays a worn lumberjack that appears to follow the same repeating daily routine, which at first he is seemingly pleasantly happy with, however the appearance (and interference) of a film crew in the local area and their subsequent requests for help soon pull the unsuspecting woodsman into a glamorous world of depths and tribulation. The ensuing comedy slowly plays out through a contrast in age and cultural differences between Katsu and Koichi (Shun Oguri), the reserved 20-something director and his social insecurities causes a kinship to grow with the outspoken and hardworking lumberjack, seeing the director as a meeker reflection of his own son who he stereotypically has family problems and attachment issues with.
First being drafted in to help location scout; then playing an extra in an incredibly humorous (but poor rendition) of a zombie in a scene, the out-of-touch Katsu sees this as an opportunity for him to become a star in his small village with friends and neighbors alike showering him with fame for Katsu’s actions and involvement in the low budget zombie flick. Soon the whole village is drawn in to help fill crew and cast roles, with hilarity ensuing on mass as the narrative progresses. The bonding between the unlikely friends helps the woodsman to revive his dying relationship with an estranged son, a minor subplot but entertaining nonetheless, and provide a sweet emotional grounding to an older protagonist who becomes more out of touch with his old life as he falls deeper into the rabbit hole.
‘The Woodsman and the Rain’ is an incredibly picturesque film, with beautiful mountainous backgrounds that contrast the glitzy film world and breathe life into the rural village tone of the film. Whilst a soundtrack is not prominent, what is noticeable most is the essence of silence and nature, the noise of the trees and the authentic sound of the countryside, which provides a unique backing track, helping to create tension and comedy in moments that otherwise just would not work. This is a film totally grounded in emotion, yet which excels at creating a smile in any situation and scene. The zombie plot is a gentle background to the time old classic tale of father-son bonding, whether that bonding is through blood or friendship. In the end, it is all just relative.
‘The Woodsman and the Rain’ is out on Blu Ray & DVD UK release from Third Window Films on 28th January 2013.
Review by Andrew Daley