The Imagination of the Transcendent: Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Maborosi (1995)
Between text and context, any understanding and appreciation of Kore-eda Hirokazu’s internationally acclaimed theatrical debut Maborosi (Maboroshi no hikari, 1995) must also take into account a particular intertext: the films of Ozu Yasujiro¯. Though Maborosi both continues and anticipates the young director’s thematic interests – loss, trauma, memory – and reproduces certain stylistic procedures of post-1990s Asian art cinema – long takes, de-dramatized narratives – the film work of Ozu provides Kore-eda with a model he can appropriate for his own ends. Ozu’s status in the West as an archetypally ‘Japanese’ director may be controversial and full of misunderstandings, but his stature as a worldclass director with a demonstrable sensibility that includes recognizable signature elements means that Kore-eda can confidently assert the Ozu intertext and know that it will be recognized. By the same token, Ozu’s status in Japan, where his stylistic elements and peculiar consistency have their own standing, similarly enables Kore-eda to be confident that his intertextual allusions will be acknowledged. Kore-eda’s intertextual dialogue with Ozu’s cinema represents the younger director’s efforts to highlight the themes of loss, trauma, and memory through the stylistic and narrative structures that enabled Ozu similarly to deal with timeless and transcendental issues. That there have been almost universal invocations of Ozu in reviews of Maborosi should not dissuade us from fully appreciating the manner in which Ozu’s cinema works to enrich the considerable depths of this film.