Mori, The Artist's Habitat
Mori no Iru Basho
Gateway | Gateway
"To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour…" William Blake’s verse encapsulates the Zen philosophy of artist Kumagai Morikazu (1880-1977), aka Mori—the subject of this delightfully offbeat and visually exquisite comedy by genre-bending director Okita Shuichi. In the last 30 years of his life, the reclusive artist never left his home in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Instead, he took pleasure in observing the cats, fish, birds and insects living in his overgrown garden, an ecosystem that provided infinite inspiration for his childlike paintings, as its unfussy beauty provides to viewers of this film.
Known for his bone-dry wit and fascination with humans stuck in extreme locations, Okita (The Chef of South Polar, Wood Job) imagines one day in the life of the artist at 94. It’s a minimalistic lifestyle full of amusing absurdities and far from idle or monotonous. An eccentric couple, Mori and his wife busily ward off the unwanted attention that fame brings, such as a motley crew of opportunists after his calligraphy, a yakuza who thinks his kid is the next Picasso, officials wanting him to accept a medal from the Emperor, even a trespasser from outer space. Legendary actors Yamazaki Tsutomu (Tampopo) and Kiki Kirin (An, Shoplifters) deliver diverting banter with perfect comic beats.