What exactly remains to look forward to as SIFF, the most interminable film festival in North America, tolls on and on… and on? Well, not much. As we collectively stagger toward the June 15 finish line, there’s plenty to steer clear of, notably Doris Dörrie’s exquisitely photographed yet insipid Cherry Blossoms: Hanami, which I watched on screener the other night, and yes, I watched it all the way through, all the way to Dörrie’s insane climax of two white people—a ghost and her cross-dressing husband—performing what they consider to be Butoh in front of Mount Fuji, the uptight hubby at last able to embrace certain dainty qualities that, in Miss Dörrie’s distinctly anti-male scheme of things, make him a better man. The picture isn’t as loathsome as her documentary, How to Cook Your Life (seen—and walked out on—at SIFF 33), yet Cherry Blossoms droops from the bough with Dörrie’s trademark, jerry-rigged “truths” about gender. The director seems most pleased with herself when she can corner a man into admitting how soft and weak he is.
A prime illustration of this: observe the tearful speech given by a 30-something accountant after he samples his father’s effort at reprising the dead mother’s recipe for cabbage rolls. A single taste triggers memories: how he fled Germany to Japan to escape dependency on his mother. This “good son,” whom Dörrie has taken great pains to reveal as a boorish lout in various scenes of drunkenness, is thus brought to his “senses” by home cooking, a ploy by which the director advertises her own steaming heaps of insight while reveling a little too neatly in pinning the character down, like a lepidopterist sticking it to a butterfly. Furthermore, although Dörrie extols traditional Butoh as a fine, wonderful, and life-enhancing activity, her attitudes toward the rest of Japanese culture, particularly pop culture, aren’t markedly more advanced than those of Sofia Coppola in the execrable Lost in Translation.