CANNES, DAY 2 | Naomi Kawase’s AN

Sentaro (Nagase Matasoshi) runs a small bakery that serves dorayakis, Japanese pastries filled with sweet red bean paste called “an”. When an old lady, Tokue (Kiki Kirin), offers to help in the kitchen he reluctantly accepts. But Tokue proves to be quite skilled at making “an.” Thanks to a recipe she’s taken half a century to perfect, the dorayaki counter takes off. But not everything is coming up roses. Tokue’s past slowly comes into view,  an old affliction that will have a serious impact on their newfound success.

Forty-five year-old Naomi Kawase has shot about as many documentaries as she has works of fiction. Her grip on the storytelling aspect of the film is a little feeble, there’s a documentary-like realism to “AN” which leaves the viewer with some unsatisfaction, as if she placed the camera on a stand and let the characters and their stories come to her viewfinder. The real joy of “An” is Kiki Kirin’s performance. As a seventy-plus year-old retiree who seeks employment with Sentaro, she breathes poetry into “An” the way the Spring breeze softly shakes the blossoming cherry trees which she admires so often in scenes from the film.

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