I have never heard the term “Zen Comedy” to describe a film. When I discovered that the Japanese film Glasses (“Megane” in Japanese) is described as this, I was immediately intrigued.
Glasses follows the experience of a four-eyed professor named Taeko (charmingly portrayed by Satomo Kobayashi), who escapes the city life for a seaside getaway at the seemingly innocuous Hamada Inn. The Inn is off the beaten path, and visitors often get lost trying to find their way from the purposefully cryptic maps drawn by the its quirky (and also bespectacled) owner (Ken Mitsuishi).
The charming elder woman of Hamada Inn, Sakura-san (Masako Motai), starts every morning by patiently sitting at Taeko’s bedside till she awakes, and greets her with a smile. She then leads a group of faithfuls through a set of exercises that look like something like a Tai Chi Chicken Dance. Needless to say, all the regulars here are different in their own ways, and it makes Taeko hesitant. Eventually, all at Hamada Inn find that they share more in common than just their eyeglasses.
Glasses is a beautiful film, shot in a beautiful island location. The pace may seem a bit slow, but it brings a sense of calm. The calming backgrounds along with the minimalist soundtrack allows the viewer to be engrossed with the characters and the poignant unspoken lines in between the spoken ones. I believe I now understand what a Zen Comedy is, but feel that you must see this film to understand it yourself.
Glasses plays today at 6pm and again on Thursday, May 8th at 5pm at the Kabuki Theatre. For more information on this and other SFIFF films, see the the SFIFF website and buy your tickets here!