Thursday, August 02, 2018

Kew Gardens ’18: Path of Dreams (short)

Ono no Komachi was one of the six revered Rokkasen poets, whose name became synonymous with beauty in Japan. To make things even more intimating, Komachi would usually require her would be lovers to court her via poetry worthy of her standards. It required a real commitment to pursue her, as her legendary admirer Fukakusa no Shosho learns in Tamara Ruppart’s short film Path of Dreams (trailer here), which screens during the 2018 Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.

According to handed-down tale, Komachi demanded the young and arrogant Shosho visit her for ninety-nine consecutive nights before she would consent to his amorous advances. Until then, the only heat they could generate was in the verse they exchanged. Frankly, Komachi insisted on this long, chaste courtship, because she was sure he would soon quit in frustration. Nevertheless, she is surprised and ultimately seduced by his determined ardor. Yet, a fabled story like this has to end in tragedy or it else it wouldn’t be told and re-told over the centuries.

Written by respected playwright Velina Hasu Houston, Path is an elegant short film that really gets inside Komachi’s language. Frankly, it is quite refreshing to see a film that doesn’t need sex, nudity, or even overtly suggestive references to be seductive. It is quite a classy production, featuring richly crafted period trappings and Nathan Wang’s chamber-style score, which really heightens the elegiac mood.

Airi Kido is terrific as Komachi, expressing the painful depths of her longing and regret through her eyes. Yet, she can also wield Komachi’s words like a cutting coquette. Komachi is a complicated figure who has been the subject of innumerable contradictory legends. Although Path is only twenty-five minutes, Kido and company really convey a sense of her messy human complexity.

Every few years or so, a poetry movie will breakout, like Il Postino, from the golden age of Miramax. Patrons who loved that film should have a similar response to this one. Recommended for fans of literate and lyrical romance, Path of Dreams screens Wednesday (8/8), as part of Block 19, at the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.