Imagine that your wife dies in a traffic accident. Imagine that at that very moment you were having sex with your young lover. Imagine that when you are told the news the morning afterwards, you don’t feel anything: no emotional pain, no remorse; but you have to play the role of a suffering husband because you are a media star, a writer of a one-time successful novel who switched from literature to TV celebrity programs. That’s how Sachio suddenly finds himself. It’s not just middle-age crisis, it’s the sensation of not being human anymore. This novel and film, 永い言い訳 (Nagai Iiwake, Long excuses) by writer and director Nishikawa Miwa, deeply captures the dissonance between the social roles assigned to people –husband, intellectual, celebrity– and their own desires and values. The 本音―建て前 (Honne-Tatemae) is taken to a maximum level because cameras are in action. Sometimes too much light doesn’t allow you to see the world. And Sachio is dazzled by the media attention, the audience, the couple’s common friends. So many politically-correct behavior scripts don’t let him search into his own past and present feelings. After a nihilistic period of time, he will look for penance, or at least for answers, taking care of two motherless children whose father is exactly his opposite, but with whom he shares a sensation of emptiness.
This is a long movie that has to be because it shows the ups and downs, as in real life, of real people; the getting closer and the moving away of different relationships. And we see the characters’ hair growing and getting cut again and again, as in a cyclical repetition of life routines.
Reminiscences of Ichikawa Kon’s 細雪 (Sasameyuki, The Makioka Sisters) in the music and scenes of trains departing, along with Kawabata’s 雪国 (Yukiguni, Snow Country); resemblance of the actor Motoki Masahiro to La Bamba’s Lou Diamonds Philips; metaphor of the zigzag railways and the steep bicycle way back home as the endurance of life; and, finally, the possibility of self-knowledge and redemption through art.