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Thursday, October 21, 2004



[ HAWAII INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ]


art
GRASSHOPA
"Taste of Tea," a film that's all zaniness with no substance, centers on the Haruno family.


Bizarre characters, scenes
not enough to carry movie

"Taste of Tea" comes from director Ishii Katsuhito, who created the bloody animated sequence in "Kill Bill Vol. 1" and whose body of work tends to favor action and weirdo characters. It has been called quirky and fun, a gentle departure for the filmmaker.

"Taste of Tea," Japan, Golden Maile feature nominee. Shows at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Dole Cannery cineplex and 6 p.m. Oct. 31 at Doris Duke Theater, Honolulu Academy of Arts

Rating: * 1/2

And it probably is all that, if you can get with the concept, which, I am sorry to say, I failed to. I mean, this guy lost me with Scene 1, when a train flies out of a character's forehead, for no discernible reason and with no discernible result.

"Taste of Tea" -- which, by the way, doesn't seem to involve tea or tasting much at all -- follows the Haruno family: Mom, Dad, Grandpa, son, daughter and uncle. Mom is an animator, Dad is a hypnotist, Grandpa is inexplicable, a grinning character who carries a tuning fork so he can set it to vibrating against his skull.

The son has reached the age -- 15, perhaps -- where he yearns for the love of a good woman. The daughter has reached the age where she has an imaginary friend -- a giant, silent, creepy version of herself.

But it is the uncle (played by the noted actor Tadanobu Asano), who sets the real wacka-doo tone of this film. He tells a story from his childhood, when he discovered a giant egg partially buried in the forest. The finding coincided with a pressing need to, well, take a dump, so he did it on the egg. Later, he is haunted by a tattooed man seemingly born of the egg, which tuns out to have been a skull, and the man wears the uncle's doo-doo like a hat.

Where is all this going? Dunno.

"Taste of Tea" has some beautifully filmed scenes of the velvety green fields of the Harunos' village. It also has some charming moments as the family members try to achieve their little goals -- the daughter, for example, must learn to do a back flip, which for some reason will make her giant companion disappear. But it's not enough to carry the nearly 2 1/2-hour running time.

The film is so wrapped up in visual tricks and bizarro characterizations that it forgets to tell a story -- at least not one that I could figure out.



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