Reviewed by: Trinity

At the start of Eureka, on a hot summer's morning, an ordinary bus ride becomes a living nightmare. A hijack, and the resulting bloody carnage leaves only three people alive - the driver, Makoto (Koji Yakusho), a schoolgirl, Kozue (Aoi Miyazaki) and her older brother, Naoki (Masuri Miyazaki). Suffering from shock, Makoto disappears, and the two children withdraw into their own silent world.

Two years later, Kozue and Naoki are left alone after their mother runs away and their father dies at the wheel of his car. At the same time, Makoto returns from his travels and the children's cousin, Akihiko, a college student, comes to visit. The four of them end up living together in a strange version of family life.

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But nothing can be quite the same again. As a serial killer stalks the town's young women, Makoto is accused of murder. Soon afterwards, he buys an old bus, and invites the others to go on a journey of rediscovery.

Director Shinji Aoyoma has claimed that his film has been inspired by a number of sources: the increasing level of senseless violence in Japan (including the Sarin gas subway attack), the music of Sonic Youth and Jim O'Rourke, the desire to shoot a film on his home island of Kyushu and John Ford's classic Western, The Searchers. All of these have been combined in a way that is beautiful in its simplicity and utterly moving.

The film is shot in black-and-white on colour stock, leading to a wonderful sepia hue. This is enhanced by languid cinematography, capturing scenes of the countryside and the small town in exquisite detail. From the wind whistling through the pipes atop the four graves in the children's garden to a single shoe floating down the river, it is full of images so stark and yet so serene that each is a beauty to behold.

This review could go on to examine the acting, the dialogue, the way in which The Searchers has been reintepreted, but in the end it couldn't do the film justice. Don't be put off by the long running time. Accept it and you'll be rewarded with one of the most moving, patient, and exquisite pieces of filmmaking you'll see this year.

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2001
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All aboard the magical mystery bus.
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Director: Shinji Aoyoma

Writer: Shinji Aoyoma

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Aoi Miyazaki, Masuri Miyazaki, Yochiro Saitoh.

Year: 2000

Runtime: 218 minutes

Country: Japan


EIFF 2001

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The Searchers