Miss Hokusai (Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai)

Miss Hokusai (Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai) 2015

I definitely enjoyed this film, as I tend to gravitate toward stories that are about artists of just about any form, but this was bright and memorable for me in terms of visuals and characters too, if not the storyline, precisely. More on that below however.

Obviously I’m hardly qualified to discuss the source material in terms of its balance between historical fact and drama, but I wouldn’t say I was surprised to see Hokusai often relied on his daughter to finish commissions and so Ōi’s work probably went unrecognised fairly often.

Though that wasn’t precisely the main source of tension in the film for me, I think the family relationships and Ōi’s efforts to help her younger sister took up a bigger portion – that and Ōi’s personal struggles with her work and identity. I know some folks didn’t enjoy the episodic nature of the storytelling and maybe I personally would have preferred a more conventional approach in some ways, because I think I’m somewhat conditioned to expect that when a film is biographical.

And yet, asking and expecting that would kinda be a bit reductive of me… because in a way, I think the film now rests in my memory as a collection of impressionistic moments that aren’t necessarily connected to the cause and effect of a traditional linear narrative, and that’s probably just as impactful anyway!

Overall, I think I was most excited to be offered a look at the lifestyles of painters during the Edo period and ended up really enjoying the detours into mythology, along with the actual artworks themselves of course.

Definitely recommended if you like somewhat meandering family dramas or biographical films that don’t precisely play out in a typical fashion.

4 Stars