There's a unique charm in the flawed and fleeting moments of life, a concept beautifully captured by the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi. Recently, I reconnected with an old schoolmate, whom I'll refer to as 'G'. Over coffee, we reminisced about our shared love for cinema and delved into films that embody the Wabi-Sabi spirit. 'G', always with an eye for the understated and serene, shared her top picks for films that celebrate life's imperfections and transience.
"An Autumn Afternoon" (1962) by Yasujirō Ozu:
In Ozu's final film, the simple story of an aging father contemplating his daughter's future is told with a poignant sense of passing time. 'G' admired how Ozu's stationary camera and serene pacing allowed viewers to find beauty in everyday life, echoing the Wabi-Sabi concept of appreciating the ordinary.
"Lost in Translation" (2003) by Sofia Coppola
This modern classic, set in the neon-lit backdrop of Tokyo, explores the fleeting connection between two Americans feeling out of place. 'G' pointed out how the film’s emphasis on transient moments of friendship amidst cultural dissonance captures the Wabi-Sabi essence of finding beauty in the impermanent and incomplete.
"Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" (2003) by Kim Ki-duk
Set in a floating monastery, this film follows a monk as he passes through the seasons of his life. 'G' was struck by the film's meditative quality and its reflection on the cyclical and ephemeral nature of existence, hallmarks of Wabi-Sabi.
"Departures" (2008) by Yōjirō Takita
This Oscar-winning film delves into the life of a young man who accidentally becomes an encoffiner, a traditional Japanese ritual mortician. 'G' appreciated how the film confronts the taboo of death with grace and dignity, embracing the Wabi-Sabi theme of finding beauty and meaning in life’s end.
"Paterson" (2016) by Jim Jarmusch
Chronicling a week in the life of a bus driver and poet named Paterson, living in Paterson, NJ, the film celebrates the beauty in daily routine. 'G' loved how the film’s focus on small details and the protagonist's simple, observational approach echoed the Wabi-Sabi themes of finding depth in the mundane.|
Discussing these films was not just a trip down memory lane, but also a reminder of the beauty that lies in life's imperfections. These movies, through their unique narratives and visual storytelling, invite us to embrace the transient, the incomplete, and the imperfect. They encourage us to see the world in a more profound and contemplative way, finding solace and beauty in the Wabi-Sabi way of life.