Picture Bride

June 09, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Picture Bride is a lyrical, elegantly composed drama —Bone of those small, pretty films that warm hearts at film festivals. Kayo Hatta’s feature debut is about Riyo (Youki Kudoh), a delicate-looking young Japanese city girl who, like thousands of other women of the period, comes to Hawaii in 1918 to marry Matsuji (Akira Takayama), a Japanese sugarcane worker, based on little more than a few letters and photographs exchanged. That her husband turns out to be much older and less handsome than his snapshot is Riyo’s first shock; adjusting to the strange new world is her ongoing challenge. Hawaiian-born Japanese-American Hatta (who, with her sister, Mari, cowrote the screenplay based on stories from their family and those of other surviving brides) stages and lights her scenes like tranquil flower arrangements, perfectly lovely — and coolly contained. We see Riyo’s emotions (Kudoh’s rosebud face looks permanently shy and virginal) but are afraid to touch. Also with Tamlyn Tomita as Riyo’s more outspoken friend, and a brief and amusing appearance by the original samurai guy himself, Toshiro Mifune, as a traveling storyteller. B+

Picture Bride

Akira Takayama
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Picture Bride

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