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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and delightful -- a touching and lovely film from Japan
The Harunos are not your typical family. The father is a hypnotist, whose method is to enable people to dream alternate worlds; the mother aspires to draw anime; the grandfather is also an artist, who takes great delight in his unconventional ways; the daughter is troubled by a giant version of herself who follows her around and stares unhappily at what she does; the...
Published on August 9, 2007 by Nathan Andersen

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10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been great if there had been some grown-ups in the editing room.
The movie is over two hours and twenty minutes long, and would have been much better with about 45 minutes or so left on the cutting room floor.

It's too bad because the story-telling could quite have been quite good had it been a little more focused. Ishii could have used a trusted friend insisting that he cut his favorite parts.

The story he is...
Published on February 17, 2008 by Anders Martinson


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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and delightful -- a touching and lovely film from Japan, August 9, 2007
This review is from: The Taste of Tea (DVD)
The Harunos are not your typical family. The father is a hypnotist, whose method is to enable people to dream alternate worlds; the mother aspires to draw anime; the grandfather is also an artist, who takes great delight in his unconventional ways; the daughter is troubled by a giant version of herself who follows her around and stares unhappily at what she does; the son, perhaps the most ordinary, is a shy but intelligent boy who has fallen in love. The film is gorgeous, full of visual surprises and laugh out loud moments. I had no idea what a nice surprise was waiting for me when I rented this on a whim; I will definitely buy this dvd since it is one that could definitely live up to repeat viewings and I can't wait to introduce it to other friends and lovers of cinema. I can't believe I'd never heard of this beautiful and charming film about family and love and obsession and work and friendship and above all, imagination. It may seem slow, since its aim is not so much to move through the paces of a story as to capture a set of lives whose worries and obsessions are vividly brought to life in their imaginations, but it is never boring. A delightful surprise, that brings the visual wonder of the best Japanese animation to the live action story of an eccentric but appealing family. Definitely one to see for anyone who like to be surprised when they watch movies.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a well made cup of tea, December 17, 2007
By 
hot4hypatia (29.48 N , 98.51 W) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Taste of Tea (DVD)
I bought this movie on a whim and I was very pleasantly surprised. The story and characters are quirky yet endearing on many levels - the grandfather in particular is priceless. It is a modern tale of an artistic family living in a suburb of Tokyo - very pastoral scenery, but very urban neuroses. It is an artistic rendering of everyday situations that make you want to laugh and cry. It is also a kaleidoscope of Yakuza thugs, hypnosis therapy, artistic integrity, letting go of a relationship, mixing music in a studio, surviving your in-laws, and more! It is all done with a light touch the neither judges nor tries to reduce to some trite formula.
If you enjoy art films and different cultures, this is a must see.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Love This Movie, May 16, 2007
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squeegee (brooklyn, new york) - See all my reviews
I saw this movie in the theater in New York City. It is the best movie I have seen in a long time. I was laughing until I was crying at some points, and at other moments utterly moved by the genuine sentiment and lyricism.

What a beautiful film...
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well..., December 20, 2007
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This review is from: The Taste of Tea (DVD)
...all I will add is that this movie begs you to watch it over and over again. It is an absolute charmer, the type of which cannot be found in (modern) American movies. Which is a terrible shame.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Movie about "Nothing"...But There's Something!, June 29, 2008
By 
Woopak "The THRILL" (Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Taste of Tea (DVD)
A movie about "Nothing"---but there is something. THE TASTE OF TEA is the handiwork of Katsushito Ishii, the director of the acclaimed cult hit "Party 7" and "Funky Forest: First Contact". Now, I'll go straight to the point, this film is about family, anime, a boy's young love, a young girl's journey through childhood, with very simple execution. If you're looking for a movie with a steadfast destination, then this movie may not be for you or if you want to use puns, not your cup of tea. However, this film is a grand display of Ishii's directorial skills, the man just knows how to tell a story and gets everything right.

A summer in the lives of the quirky Haruno clan, who passes the unhurried days trying to realize their ambitions. In a small town just North of Tokyo, a dedicated mother (Satomi Tezuka) attempts to revive her anime career with the aid of Grandpa who assumes the poses, her hypno-therapist hubby (Tomokazu Miura) has no choice but to back her decision and supports the family financially. Meanwhile, their eldest son (Takahiro Sato) feels the allure of teenage love and their 6 yr.-old daughter (Maya Banno) grapples with a pesky, gigantic doppelganger. Brother Asano (Tadanobu Asano) wants to be a successful sound mixer.

Remember the show "Seinfeld" that pronounces itself as a show about "nothing", well, Ishii has taken that phrase to the next level. The film's beauty is the manner on which it is structured with body languages, facial expressions and mumblings as its main vehicle in expressing its ideas. While its main premise is simple, it has the uncanny ability to say a lot without even saying a word. From the young girl who plays peek-a-boo with Grandpa, to the times when the teenager plays "Go" with his father and Uncle while the mother discusses posture and cool stances for her anime feature. A lot of it are "little things", sequences of everyday family matters but the film expresses a lot through its whimsical and episodic style. The word "Mosaic" is truly fitting for this film, since it is truly composed of diverse elements and formulas.

There's a Yakuza ghost with feces on his head whose tale is told by the boy's uncle, the giant egg, the goal of the "perfect" back flip, all these factors contribute to the family's amazing chemistry through interaction. The characters are so interesting and their characteristics mesh so well that if you take away one, the other characters would have to react differently. This is truly a great sign of excellent storytelling, when the characters take a life of their own and the plot (or lack of) can really breath. The family has become one breathing entity because of its direction.

The film is not a drama; nothing really major happens but it promotes an emotional reaction. It is not a comedy, yet, I found myself laughing quite a lot from its sequences. The film is not really telling a tale but it is more about memoirs, reflections and the clan's everyday routine. It's a bit long at 2 hours and 17 minutes, but with its eccentric characters and meandering storyline, the film will envelope you with its charm and its bright whimsical humor will undoubtedly put a smile on your face and will keep you locked in for its entirety. Even with its slower-paced moments, Ishii will draw you in with its warmth and joyful emulation will never bore you.

"The Taste of Tea" is rightfully named. Sometimes bizarre and odd, whimsical and episodic, with subtleties about life's meaning. To some Tea tastes flat and just tastes like flavored water, to some its variety of flavors add a lot of satisfaction to our taste buds. Tea can also be sometimes sweet and at the same time bitter. The film's execution has plenty of capacity for humor, and its humor is universal and won't get lost in its translation. "The Taste of Tea" is about Life's fulfillment, that lies in the pursuit of individual goals and these goals need not be huge or life-changing to provide a feeling of joy. Happiness is in the little things and appreciation for things we usually ignore is what true fulfillment is really about.

[...]
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tastes....refreshing!, September 19, 2007
In comparison to his rough and tumble indie-feeling gangster flick, Samehada Otoko to Momoji Onna, despite having little or no plot, Ishii Katsuhito's Ocha No Aji is a more serene offering, with humour that alternates between subtle, visual, and wacky, drama, and quirky visuals. He introduces us to the Harunos, a family of five living in a nice house in the Tochigi Prefecture countryside.

The parents seem normal enough, anime artist mother Yoshiko trying to make a comeback, while her husband Nobuo is a hypnotist. The cute six-year old Sachiko is plagued by a giant double of herself that appears from time to time. Sometimes it is seen as a head popping out of the ground; other times, it gazes at her, lying on the playground looking in the classroom. One wonders if it symbolizes her fears.

The oldest child Hajime is a first year high school student who has a fear of women due to two incidents and the moving away of a classmate he wanted to confess his love to.
However, he is given a new lease on hope with the appearance of Suzuishi Aoi, a transfer student from Tokyo. His adolescent hormones are recharged, to the point that he bikes like a demon all the way back home instead of parking it near the train station like he normally does. Though low-key and shy, Hajime's my favourite character. It's simply heart-warming to see his joy when he finds a way to get closer to Aoi, by joining the go club, and when he waves at Aoi in the soaking rain--after swiftly tossing his umbrella before the bus door closes.

To say the grandpa is eccentric is like saying Bill Gates is rich. An old man with a funny face and a quiff of white hair standing up, he uses a tuning fork to make sure he is in tune, makes funny martial arts like poses as well as impromptu songs, and at one point, does a duet with Yoshiko's brother Ikki, an anime artist with a pudding bowl haircut, wearing cheesy Vegas style suits and singing a song titled "Yamayo!"--"Oh Mountain," the song's only lyric. Anything he does easily prompts a laugh.

Veteran actor Asano Tadanobu plays Uncle Ayano, a sound mixer who has come to the countryside to relax, but also to come to some closure with an ex-girlfriend. He tells his nephew and niece about his first outdoor sh^t in the forest as a kid, which somehow led to the ghost of a scary-looking yakuza to haunt him. Upon hearing how Ayano's doing a backflip led to the vanishing of the ghost, Sachiko thinks maybe that's the way to get rid of her double. There is a perfectly rational explanation for Ayano's story, which adds to the hilarity element. More hilarious is his reaction to the "Yamayo" song. The look on his disgusted face is like, "My god, this is so effed up," and he later says of Grandpa and Ikki, "They look like perverted aliens from another planet."

The appearance of Sachiko's double, the train coming out of Hajime's forehead, and two otakus who ride the train wearing ridiculously bulky costumes are just a few visual wonders in this film. If Suzuishi Aoi is familiar, that's because it's Anna Tsuchiya, who played the biker Ichigo in Shimotsuma Story--a.k.a. the inappropriately titled Kamikaze Girls. She's quieter in this film, with more of a natural beauty. Supporting roles include Anno Hideaki, best known for directing the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime.

Trivia: the station where Hajime and his father get off is Terauchi Station on the Moka Line. That is five stops from where I live! The place where Ishii shot his movie is Motegi City, whose station is the terminus of the Moka Line. Yet the train used is not the Moka train, but something specially designed for the movie. And the narrator of the film also has a role, as Mr. Haruno's patient at his clinic, and she's quite funny.

Maybe the rich refreshing flavour of green tea one savours is why this odd but pleasant film is titled such, because it sure refreshed me!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Surreal Life, August 13, 2008
It is hard to put a finger on what exactly is so great about "The Taste of Tea" ("Cha no Aji"). There is no real story to speak of, the movie drifts from one bizarre instance to another, and becomes just a hodge-podge of small vignettes vaguely connected by a circumstance of family. A bit like real life, I suppose, but without the bleeding ghosts and giant girls.

What ever it is, "The Taste of Tea" is a great flick. Director Ishii Katsuhito (Party 7) has put together a modern version of an Ozu film, focusing on tiny family dramas that anyone could encounter and making them the focus. No grand drama, no heroes and villains, just life. Everything focuses around the Haruno family, with each member having a story to tell. Effects are used to create the surreal atmosphere, but never overpower the story. An American equivalent would be Big Fish, which also combines the nostalgic with the surreal.

The ensemble cast is pure quality, each of them stars of the Japanese film industry. Asano Tadanobu (Kakihara from Ichi the Killer) plays a younger brother who needs time with his family to recuperate from lost love. Tezuka Satomi (Isola) plays the mother, a woman who has given up her career as an animator to raise her family, but wants to break back in now that her children are older. Gashuin Tatsuya (Spirited Away) is amazing as the unhinged grandfather, a man with an artist's soul and the innocence of a child. Anno Hideaki, creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion, even pops in for a cameo role.

The scenery of rural Japan is also beautifully filmed, and is enough to make you nostalgic for it even if you have never been there. All the sites and sounds are perfect, with vivid colors crisp and alive. I have spent some time in rural Japan, and "The Taste of Tea" made me want to chuck my job, pack a suitcase, and head back to the mountains and rice fields and just soak up the lifestyle.

This limited edition of the DVD is worth getting picking up over the regular one if you can. A two-disk collection, there is a subtitled 90-min "Making of" feature, as well as the full version of the animation "Super Big" which was featured in the movie.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Japanese pictural poetry at its best, January 29, 2009
By 
This review is from: The Taste of Tea (DVD)
The taste of tea (AKA Cha no aji) is a Japanese movie which, during the first five minutes of watching it, provides a feeling of uncertainty. What am I watching? Is that funny? Is that just plain bad? And then the magic operates, largely due to the beauty of the scenery, the credibility of each and every actor, the soothing effect of the slow rhythm of the whole "action". Then, enjoyment, pleasure and even laughs succeed the initial feeling of uncertainty as the plot starts making sense and the characters each get to expose their personality more plainly.

The story is simple at first. It's about a Japanese family of 4+2: the overactive and somewhat distant parents, the young and very lonely daughter, the immature and shy teen boy, the deranged grandfather and the lazy -yet creative- lost uncle.

What the viewer realizes after a while is that, although all of the characters physically live together in their daily life, they each follow their own path, share little together and hardly know each other at all. After a while though, they start sharing something in common through the least expected, weirdest character of them all and get to open up to each other in a beautiful, blossoming fashion.

Action seekers, don't stop here. This movie's for those that look for authenticity, poetry and subtlety.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Visually pleasing, June 9, 2008
This review is from: The Taste of Tea (DVD)
This is a visually pleasing film, full of unexpected beauty. It is about unusual Japanese family living in mountain. Family consists of artists, visual and musical and the head of the family happens to be a hypnotist who enhances their imagination with unexected hypnotic sessions. Each family member is going thru significant changes in life. Mom, who is animator is trying to get back into workforce, young boy is coming of age is hopelessly falling in love with very pretty newcomer girl into his class, young girl is lethargic in her attempt to rid of her giant imaginary ghost who seems to be following her everywhere. Their uncle, a sound mixer, is having difficult time of letting go of the girl who has married someone else. As they all go thru their days, the grandfather, seemingly senile is singing along, playing hide an seek with his granddaughter and preparing his new musical score for his nephew's birthday. We see beauty of nature all around them: rice fields, butterflies, wild flowers, greenery of trees in the the mountains. And then one day, as gradfather dies, in his room his family finds animation books about each family member. It is amazing to learn that the way the old man saw them is the way they saw themselves during critical moments in their lives. Beautiful film about little moments in life that make family members feel close to each other and make us all appreciate life in all its beauty. This is film for sophisticated and mature viewers. It is complicated in its simplicity...I have enjoyed this film very much.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cha No Aji (The Taste Of Tea), September 30, 2007
This delightful film by Ishii Katsuhito follows the daily lives of a highly idiosyncratic Japanese family: a 6 year old girl who is quietly observed by a gigantic doppelganger, her older brother who is desperate to find his first love, her manga artist mother, her hypnotherapist father, her uncle who is stalked by a yakuza ghost with a turd on his head, and her loopy Grandpa who appears to be some sort of performance artist.

The film lacks a strong narrative but this doesn't matter one iota because all the characters are so beautifully drawn. All the performances are fabulous, the somewhat omnipotent Tadanobu Asano plays the uncle and Tatsuya Gashuin is an absolute scream as Grandpa.

Similar in mood to Edward Yang's Yi Yi: A One And A Two, this film will leave you with the warm and fuzzies. Just sit back and let it charm your socks off.
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The Taste of Tea
The Taste of Tea by Katsuhito Ishii (DVD - 2009)
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