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Snow Falling on Cedars (1999)

Ethan Hawke , James Cromwell , Scott Hicks  |  PG-13 |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ethan Hawke, James Cromwell, Richard Jenkins, James Rebhorn, Sam Shepard
  • Directors: Scott Hicks
  • Writers: Scott Hicks, Ron Bass
  • Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Harry J. Ufland, Ron Bass
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Dolby
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: May 30, 2000
  • Run Time: 128 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0783240325
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,667 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Snow Falling on Cedars" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Spotlight on Location
  • Feature Commentary with Director Scott Hicks
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Manzanar
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Production Notes
  • Cast and Filmmakers
  • Universal Showcase
  • Recommendations

  • Editorial Reviews

    Australian director Scott Hicks's follow-up to his widely beloved Shine comes as a small shock. Based on David Guterson's bestselling novel, Snow Falling on Cedars is far removed from the character-driven, pure storytelling of Shine and a comparative plunge into moody atmospherics. Action insinuates itself through the director's determined eye for watercolor composition and free-floating perspective, like random shoots of new growth in an overwhelming rain forest. It's impossible to be complacent as a viewer because Hicks's meditative style paradoxically forces one to locate and make the story happen internally.

    The approach makes good aesthetic sense in that Guterson's story couches courtroom drama in dreamy textures, and Hicks is determined to reflect that even if it means turning an audience's idea of narrative on its head. He also gets a lot of help from the weather in the Pacific Northwest: the setting is one of Washington State's San Juan Islands, where rain embraces earth and sky in a singular, introverted personality. There, a Japanese American war hero (Rick Yune) stands accused of murdering a white fisherman in the years following World War II. His wife (Youki Kudoh) is the former childhood sweetheart and lover of a local newspaperman (Ethan Hawke) whose bitterness over the loss--as well as his helplessness during the internment of Japanese Americans, and the crusading legacy of his journalist father (Sam Shepard)--prevents him from coming to the defense of the accused man.

    Layered emotions, layered sensations, layered clouds. This is historical fiction of a sort that works best as an experience of time's relativity: flowing, stopping, trickling. Ironically, the film's most commercial element, the trial, is the least interesting aspect, though old pro Max Von Sydow makes those scenes great fun as a wily defense counsel. --Tom Keogh

    Product Description

    Ethan Hawke stars in this "riveting tale of mystery" (FOX-TV) based on the award-winning best-selling novel. A murder trial has upset the quiet community of San Piedro, and now this tranquil village has become the center of controversy. For Ishamael Chambers (Hawke), a local reporter, the trial strikes a deep emotional chord when he finds his ex-lover is linked to the case. As he investigates the killing, he uncovers some startling clues that lead him to a shocking discovery. Co-starring James Cromwell, Sam Shepard and Max Von Sydow, Snow Falling on Cedars is "hypnotic, mesmerizing and inspiring" (ABC-TV).

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Story, Difficult to Follow August 21, 2000
    By Matt
    Format:VHS Tape
    As a reader of the excellent book by author David Guterson, I didn't quite know what to expect from a movie version. A book of this caliber and structure is not a book easily made into a movie. But through the collective efforts of the director Scott Hicks and great acting on the parts of Ethan Hawke, Max von-Sydow, and James Cromwell, the majestic beauty of the book comes alive on the silver screen. The only visible problem with the film would be the fact that some people simply won't get it. There are people who just enjoy watching a movie to be entertained, not to have to follow tough plot lines. These are the people that need to avoid a film such as Snow Falling on Cedars. The various plot lines and sub-plot lines revolve around the death of a fisherman, Carl Heine and the ensuing trial of the Japanese man, Kazuo Miyamoto, accused of killing him. The movie takes place during the trial, but flashbacks are heavily used during the testimony of the victim's mother, Etta Heine, as with all the other witnesses. Throughout the movie a different plot line emerges, one of more power and one of love. The plot line revolves around a local reporter named Ishmael Chambers and of his love for the accused man's wife, plus his inescable feelings of loss and regret. Circumstances tore them apart leaving Ishamel to wonder about what might have been. A beautiful story, but one that should only be watched by people that can appreciate the intricacy of the plot.
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    33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
    Format:VHS Tape
    I can attest to the adage that the first person one falls in love with is forever, regardless of whether that person gets married to someone else or not. Well, in Snow Falling On Cedars, that sort of past comes back to haunt young reporter Ishmael Chambers when he discovers the husband of his first love Hatsue is being tried for the murder of fisherman/husband/father Carl Heine. The case for the prosecution is that Kazuo, Hatsue's husband, murdered Carl with a flat wooden object, such as a kendo stick (wooden swords used in stick fighting), and all because of the loss of seven acres of land owned by Kazuo's father when Kazuo's family was interned during WW2. Kazuo had demanded the return of the land, but because of two payments missed, his family forfeited the land, which came into Carl's possession. He is defended by an elderly lawyer, Nels Gudmundsson (veteran Swedish actor Max von Sydow in a strong performance), who as a Scandinavian, detects the race issue here. Pearl Harbor has not been forgotten, in other words. All the while, Ishmael sits high up on the balcony of the trial room, observing the defendant and his wife. He is clearly still bitter about the past, as he might have ended up with Hatsue had not circumstances dictated otherwise. This bitterness is manifested when he sits on some information key to Kazuo's defense.
    Set in the fishing village of San Piedro, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, the film shuttles back and forth between the present, in the 1950's, and the past, in the late 30's to 40's. The film shows Ishmael falling in love with Hatsue Imada, a Japanese girl, and both their mothers disapproving of interracial relationships.
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    21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good With Love Story Being Best Part September 15, 2000
    I enjoyed this movie much more than the novel upon which it was based. This is very unusual for me as it is usually the reverse situation. What I liked best is epitomized on the cover of the box. It shows the heroine as a child and the hero as an adult, even though, in the film, they are at all times the same age. The film, however, shifts atmospherically from their shared life together as children, adolescents and lovers to their lives as full adults. The hero is having a harder time letting go of that shared time together than she is. As adults of around thirty, they are as apart as they once were together. Her same-race (Japanese American) husband is on trial in their town for murdering a local fisherman. The hero is bitterly alone and has taken over his late father's newspaper. That he lost his arm fighting in World War II is part of his bitterness. The trial is the weakest part of the film and I could have done with much less of it. The rest of the film is so beautifully brought to the screen that it is annoying when the "typical" trial scenes play. Normally I love Max Van Sydow, the trial lawyer, but I could have even dispensed with him. Gorgeous cinematography enhances this film greatly. Ethan Hawke, who plays the hero, seems to be choosing his roles very carefully. After this film, he went on to star in "Hamlet 2000", where he was spectacular.
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    18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully crafted and compelling story July 4, 2000
    This is a magnificent adaptation of David Guterson's acclaimed book. Director Scott Hicks took on a gargantuan task in attempting to make the book into a film, not only because it was so powerful and well received, but because it was so lengthy and daedal. The result, however, was one of the best films I have seen in quite some time.
    There were really three stories intricately interwoven into one. The main story was the trial of a Japanese American for the murder of a fisherman who owned the land wrongfully taken from the accused's father. The other two stories provide insight into critical events affecting the trial. The first involves the childhood love affair of local newspaperman Ishmael (Ethan Hawke) and Hatsue (Youki Kudoh), who is now the wife of the accused. He has uncovered information that can aid the defense, but his resentment for having been jilted by Hatsue stands in the way of his bringing it forth.
    The second ancillary story is the persecution of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II. We see depictions of hatred and bigotry, as law abiding Japanese citizens are shamelessly herded into internment camps. This seething animus serves as the psychological backdrop for the trial, which occurs in the early 1950's when the memories of the war and lost loved ones is still fresh.
    From a directorial and cinematography perspective, this film was nothing short of a masterpiece. It is a cinematic work of art. Between Hicks' brilliant camera perspectives and Robert Richardson's beautiful lighting and earth tone coloring, the film was resplendent in powerful and stirring images. Many were so artistically done that if made into snapshots they could easily hang in any art gallery. Each shot was meticulously thought out.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars Very nice movie!
    Very nice movie!
    Published 2 days ago by Tom
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    Published 9 days ago by Helen Hagen
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    Brilliantly crafted screenplay. Very moving. Strongly recommend
    Published 17 days ago by Ark Regional Services
    3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty, But Pretty Long
    Too many plot threats (played out against backgrounds of major historical events) are stuffed into this too long and, consequentially, sometimes too boring film. Read more
    Published 25 days ago by William F. Flanigan Jr.
    4.0 out of 5 stars Best for people who have read the book
    We watched this movie as a family, and I'm the only one who has read the novel. The opening scene where the man accused appears in the fog was very effective for setting the tone... Read more
    Published 25 days ago by mjmiles
    4.0 out of 5 stars Well Made Period Piece
    Having read the awesome novel by David Guterson, I was excited about seeing this film and I wasn't disappointed. Read more
    Published 1 month ago by raja99
    4.0 out of 5 stars Had to watch this for a class
    I picked this movie from a list of movies posted by my teacher. I ended up enjoying and recommending the movie to others
    Published 1 month ago by Natalie Runyon
    3.0 out of 5 stars Bit weak
    The story was weak compared to the book. Though there were strong actors they came up short in the way they we directed to act.
    Published 2 months ago by Lois Nagamatsu
    5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic
    It's a good mystery and beautiful film with historical significance. I've loved it from the first time I saw it, and still do, maybe even more. Read more
    Published 2 months ago by Vivian Faulkner-King
    5.0 out of 5 stars Feel Good Movie
    It's a good story with a good plot. I have watched it more than once and plan on watching again (like a song you go to for the mood it inspires).
    Published 3 months ago by Rich220
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