Cast: Kiki Kirin, Tsutomu Yamazaki
Official Selection, Vancouver International Film Festival
No one thing. By the time Morikazu Kumagai finishes painting this single phrase, he’s short of breath and ready for his afternoon nap. But Kumagai is more than the spacey, endearingly blasé, and quirky Zen wizard this film might have you believe. Kumagai, in real life, was a famous painter – passed now for forty-one years – and known for his reclusive lifestyle.
With two of Japan’s most revered actors (including the late Kirin Kiki) in a charming biopic covering a single day in his life, we learn that Kumagai refused to stray beyond his yard, preferring to socialize with his endless garden of critters and crawlies. Close-ups of June bugs, ants, and butterflies are not for the faint-of-heart, but the upbeat music, laugh-out-loud comedic beats, and cure-your-grumpiness atmosphere of the film gradually eases us into the understanding that MORI, THE ARTIST’S HABITAT, is actually itself about no one thing in particular – no narrative arc to be traced, no dramatic plot point to arrange the film around. And yet the point is clear as day that none of that is needed when you have a character as loveable as Mori.
– Thomas Jin