April Story (1998)

April 4, 2003 • Film, japan, Reviews

[director Shunji Iwai]

As if he needed to let off steam after the dark epic Swallowtail Butterfly, Shunji Iwai created this sweet little valentine of a film in just a few months following Swallowtail. It is completely different in length and tone: while Swallowtail was a gritty, kinky, street-level tale, with a lengthy three hour duration, April Story is the slightest and gentlest of coming-of-age films, which, at seventy-some minutes, is hardly even a standard theatrical feature.

Happily, April Story features the great cinematography of Shinoda Noboru, and Iwai’s very particular storytelling talents are in full force. The “”story,”” such as it is, is really just about a young girl moving in to college for the first time. She is bright and warm towards people, but also a little shy and withdrawn when it comes to certain aspects of her life. As the story moves on, she radiates goodwill to a number of people around her.

Iwai has a habit in this film of turning and following the characters who feel the girl’s generosity for a while after she has taken leave of them. This technique turns out to be very charming, and it eventually shows us the ever-expanding influence her good will and happy attitude have on a whole community of people.

See this film if you want a taste of unsentimental, unbridled sweetness in cinema. See it if you’re depressed after Swallowtail Butterfly. I won’t waste any more words on it. It’s such a light, floating kind of movie I think that too much explanation would ruin it.


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