An Oscar winner for best foreign-language film, this moving 2008 Japanese drama stars Masahiro Motoki (Shall We Dance?) as an unemployed young cellist in Tokyo who inherits from his mother a home in a picturesque northern mountain town. After moving there with his wife, he stumbles into a career as assistant to an elderly ?encoffiner? (Tsutomo Yamazaki of Tampopo), someone who engages in the elegant ritual of dressing a corpse prior to cremation. The ceremony provides release for the mourners (as well as some unexpected comic moments), yet the profession carries a social stigma and tests the young man's mettle. Director Yojiro Takita uses the changing seasons to echo the characters' moods; the score by Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle) has a suitably majestic sweep. In Japanese with subtitles. PG-13, 131 min.
Director: Yojiro Takita
Writer: Kundo Koyama
Producer: Yasuhiro Mase, Toshiaki Nakazawa and Toshihisa Watai
Cast: Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kimiko Yo, Takashi Sasano, Tôru Minegishi, Tetta Sugimoto, Yukiko Tachibana and Tatsuo Yamada