Documentary Review: The Cheese and the Worms (2005) by Haruyo Kato

Movies that target loss of life, and notably documentaries that document the final days of people usually are not precisely a pattern, with the subject at all times thought-about alienating if not appalling. Whereas Wang Bing, in his “Mrs Fang”,  offered the idea with a darkish/brutal realism Haruyo Kato, chooses a a lot “brighter” method to the ultimate days of her mom, in a movie whose apparent objective was to operate as a type of catharsis, however finally ends up being a lot extra. 

“The Cheese and the Worms” is screening free of charge at DAFilms as a part of the “Made in Japan, Yamagata 1989 – 2021” program

In response to the director’s assertion, in the future, she was out of the blue knowledgeable that her mom had one or two years to reside. She survived for a bit greater than that, and in her third 12 months of sickness, Haruyo Kato purchased a small video digicam, pondering that her mom would recuperate, and he or she might document the miracle. In that trend, she began recording the on a regular basis life of their home, together with their work within the fields and their home scenario, which additionally contains the director’s aged grandmother and her brother’s household subsequent door. These scenes are juxtaposed with those the affected person spends on the hospital, whereas the documentary is break up into chapters whose titles level to a few of the meals merchandise the household churns out.

The documentary unfolds very similar to a house video in that trend, with the director really being an integral a part of the proceedings, continuously interacting together with her topics. What’s spectacular, nonetheless, is how all features of life are offered within the movie, for the reason that movies embrace the newborn of Kato’s brother, the 2 siblings, her mom, and her aged grandmother, in a trend that may very well be perceived as a document of the cycle of life. 

The juxtaposition of scenes in the home, the fields, and the hospital additionally works fairly properly for the narrative, with every one additionally functioning as a type of aid from the opposite, whereas Kato retains the entire thing gentle, not focusing intently on the inevitable, together with her mom’s general angle serving to essentially the most in that regard and the laughters being way more than the cries within the film. 

On the identical time, nonetheless, the entire narrative, even when the inevitable turns into evident, finally ends up being considerably tedious and repetitive, with the truth that the documentary is sort of private for the filmmaker changing into reasonably evident after a trend, as it’s tough to empathize with the “protagonists”. The half concerning the meals merchandise helps considerably, with Kato’s modifying putting these scenes ideally, however on the identical time, at 98 minutes, the entire endeavour positively overextends its welcome. Moreover, 16 years after its preliminary launch, the film exhibits its age, with the standard of the visuals not serving to in any respect in that regard. 

“The Cheese and the Worms” isn’t precisely a nasty movie, and its realism, sentiment, and video-chronicle method work fairly properly once in a while. Nevertheless,  in the long run, and notably these days, it has additionally misplaced its urgency virtually fully, leading to a title that basically addresses solely excessive movie buffs.  



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