Tsugumi (1990 ) - Jun Ichikawa
Jun Ichikawa's Tsugumi is such an elegant portrait of a troubled soul. Ichikawa's graceful cinematic language quakes with quiet understanding - an existential and elemental experience about the nature of self and how internal turmoil is in intrinsic contention with social harmony. Deftly navigating what it means to live, Tsugumi is a story of continuous micro-conflicts, featuring a central protagonist whose illness as hardened her from an early age, a character who chooses the ego over altruism as a coping mechanism to make sense of unjust circumstances that make up her reality. A coming-of-age archetypical story but so much more, Ichikawa's exquisite direction excavates the realities of sociality with a gaze rooted in existentialism. Drawing parallels between the harmonious waves of the ocean and sociality intrinsic to human beings, Ichikawa deploys a recurring visual motif of the sea as a figurative device. The lesson our main protagonist through her journey must come to learn is quite simple - Humans are not above nature, and our individualism while essential to self is rooted in contention with the social order. The polycentric nature of the social world will never ultimately serve all one's internal desires, but social harmony is what we as creatures ultimately strive for - a communal sense of understanding that frees us from the intrinsic horror of our own mortality and towards a path of acceptance and ultimately peace.
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