Director Shuichi Okita brings a slice of the life of Morikazu Kumagai, recognized Japanese painter, in “Mori: The Artist’s Habitat” a quaint comedy.

As Japan grows more into its current modern form, the elderly Kumagais holds onto some of its past and traditions as Morikazu (Tsutomu Yamazaki) or “Mori” maintains his strange daily schedule in his traditionally style home. The prolific painter has not left his residence for 30 years since he moved into the area and finds many things within the property to keep him busy. Observing the many tiny nuances of his precious garden takes most of his time which fascinate many. Though this particular day has a peaceful start, it becomes more and more of a bustle as people go through the open doors of the hermit’s paradise.

“Mori: The Artist’s Habitat” has a very calming atmosphere as many close-ups bring what the man sees to the audience. Fascination seems to be a present theme whether it’s Mori’s innocent wonder or the curiosity of the various guests. The soundtrack created by composer kensuke ushio (agraph), whom we met at the AX 2018 “Liz and the Blue Bird” press conference, is like his work in “A Silent Voice” and “Liz” by having very soft sounds. However in “Mori”, the rhythmic melodies have a very playful mood with the use of keyboard instruments and a small addition of orchestral ones. While having fitting music, there are several moments where it is just the ambient noise for the audience to really take in scenery. Along with the beauty of nature, “Mori” brings a bit of drama and comedy including the iconic basin drop gag. The late actress Kirin Kiki has a wonderful performance as Hideko Kumagai, Morikazu’s dutiful and witty wife. A sense of stability is always with her as she provides assistance for her quirky husband. Overall, “Mori: The Artist’s Habitat” is a wholesome film about being content with the little things.

For more information on this movie, check out SDAFF’s webpage.

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