Dir: Higashi Yoichi. Japan. 2000. 116 mins.
Prod co: Siglo Ltd. Int'l sales: Brussels Ave (+32 2 511 9156). Prods: Yamagami Tetsujiro, Sho Koshiro. Scr: Higashi Yoichi. DoP: Tsutai Takahiro. Art dir: Itoh Akoi. Main cast: Tsutsui Michikata, Hoyosamada Takahito, Tsumiki Miho.
The Crossing is another fascinating inter-generational story similar to Takeshi Kitano's 1999 Cannes-prize winner Kikujiro. It is the concluding part of director Higashi Yoichi's "boy and river" trilogy, referring both to a figurative obstacle that young and old characters have to ford as much as to a literal river crossing. This follow-up to The Village of Dreams, which won a Silver Bear at the 1996 Berlin Film Festival, proved a popular entry in the Panorama section of the festival this year.
The main character is Koji, a 29-year old designer and Harley Davidson rider living in Tokyo. He hears two pieces of bad news from his elder brother Shuichi who still lives in their hometown: his father has died and his 14-year-old nephew Takuya has been arrested trying to rob a post office, wielding a tiny knife and wearing a hockey-mask. Koji returns home for the funeral and tries to develop a relationship with his problem nephew, eventually teaching him to ride his expensive motorcycle and taking him to the beautiful bend in the river that represents a physical and psychological barrier.
The film is full of rich details about everyday Japanese life and though the pace may be leisurely, it never feels like a docu-drama. Many gentle comic touches enliven the narrative and the colour photography is excellent, cleverly contrasting urban and natural landscapes. The cast are thoroughly credible and there is an attractive music score which subtly blends Japanese and European rhythms. It should perform well on the international festival and arthouse circuits.