KAMATAKI (Claude Gagnon). 110 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (April 28). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Kamataki is the catchy name of the days-long, work-intensive process of firing Japanese pottery in a wood-burning kiln. That's fitting. After the film's over, you'll feel like you've been sitting in the theatre for days, too.
It's yet another reworking of the cultural cliché about a Westerner who travels to Asia to nourish his pathetic soul. Montrealer Ken ( Matthew Smiley ), grieving his father's death, has just tried to commit suicide, so his mother sends him to live with his uncle, Takuma ( Tatsuya Fuji ), a famous potter, somewhere in rural Japan.
Sullen and glum, Ken balks at first and even ignores the unsubtle attentions of a Caucasian potter, Rita ( Lisle Wilkerson ). But before you can mouth the words "young grasshopper," Ken's enthusiasm for pottery and sex gets stoked majorly, guided of course by his wise and mysterious uncle.
There are huge gaps in the story. If Takuma is Ken's uncle, then was his father Japanese, too? How did the father die, and why did Ken attempt suicide? Why is Takuma so reclusive?
Those are quibbles next to Smiley's and Wilkerson's low-energy performances (bare minimum: the two need voice lessons). Fuji, who was in the Japanese masterpiece In The Realm Of The Senses, blows their asses off in the acting department, but his English is so heavily accented that his lines should really be subtitled.