Original Title
Kohi Jikou
Production Year
Running Time
Tadanobu ASANO

Inspired by Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu, Hou Hsiao-hsien depicts a girl's everyday life and the changes that are born inside her.

HOMAGE TO YASUJIRO OZU Yasujiro Ozu is an exceptional director admired by film lovers all over the world. Director Hou Hsiao-hsien pays an homage to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ozu's birthday. Hou is a long-time admirer of Ozu work and this piece will surely be one that will go down in screen history as a meeting of minds and talents of the two. Hou Hsiao-hsien has already garnered his own fair share of international acclaim in foreign film festivals including Cannes, Venice and Berlin, with such works as City of Sadness and Flowers of Shanghai. His new work CAFE LUMIERE paints a picture of modern Japan. Hou himself says, "I tried to think how Ozu himself would have shot a film in today's Japan," and this work succeeds splendidly in echoing the "spirituality" of Ozu, presenting to the audience a work that could well be described as a Tokyo Story for the 21st century by portraying everyday life in modern Japan from the viewpoint of Director Hou. Shot in Japan with Japanese actors and actresses, this was the first time for Hou to shoot a film entirely in a foreign location in a foreign language. For Hou therefore, CAFE LUMIERE is an important work in a new medium, even for such an international director. Director Hou's aim has been to portray the real and evince other things the eye cannot see, and as he paints a picture of modern Japan, the audience are struck by the universality of his theme of "loving people and savoring each and every moment." Yoko (Yo Hitoto), a freelance writer becomes friends with the proprietor of a secondhand bookstore, Hajime (Tadanobu Asano) and the two spend a great deal of time together in coffee shops. Yoko was raised in the rural town of Yubari by her sight-impaired uncle, but has created a good relationship with her father and step-mother. One day Yoko tells her parents that she is pregnant. The father of the child is Taiwanese. Her parents worry for Yoko's future and her choice to become an unmarried mother. Although he cannot articulate his feelings, Hajime is filled with love for Yoko. In her daily life Yoko comes to reevaluate her view of her family, Hajime, and the new life growing inside her... The musician who the main character Yoko is researching in the film was a real musician called Jiang Ewn-Ye. Born in Taiwan with Japanese nationality, Jiang was the talk of 1930s and 1940s music world in Japan, and living through the fast changing modern era, he passed away in Beijing in 1983. As the original title KOHI JIKOU suggests a feeling of "settling the spirit and facing the realities of one's life," the film portrays the moments where Yoko and Hajime are about to restart their own lives, with delicate and transparent images. During the film, a coffee shop appears which embodies the title of the film. The main role is taken on by Yo Hitoto in her first film appearance. Coming to Japan for the audition, Director Hou knew immediately when he saw Yo, whose debut single Morai-naki was a long-selling hit, that "she is the main character." Considering that this is her debut performance, Yo portrays the heroine Yoko with unique sensitivity (a song of Yo's is also used in the film's soundtrack). For Yo's counterpart in the film, Tadanobu Asano whose overwhelming presence on the Japanese silver screen continues to draw strong appeal at home and abroad in such works as Zatoichi and Bright Future (Akarui Mirai), was selected as the proprietor of the secondhand bookstore. Masato Hagiwara, Nenji Kobayashi and Kimiko Yo also bring their unique talents to portray tenderly the transient feelings of men and women, as well as family relationships. Principal photography was completed in a manner favored by Director Hou, whereby the script is unfinished and instead shooting concentrates on imagination while shooting. This is a style in direct contrast to Ozu, who fastidiously stuck to a strict style. However, what both men share in common is their "description of people, society and feelings." Director Hou has filmed in various locations in Tokyo, a city he has been familiar with for 20 years, including Jimbocho which is known for its bookstore-district, and Kishibojin where the looks of the old style Tokyo still remains. His ability to paint a true portrait of the lives of the people living in those areas, and bring the place and the people to life is truly remarkable. He also takes in the Yamanote Line (the belt line surrounding the center of Tokyo) and the tramcar line (running in the old area of Tokyo), which feature strongly in the life of the heroine. Filming commenced on August 2, 2003, in the town of Ueda in Nagano Prefecture and after location shoots in Takasaki and Tokyo, the last shots were filmed on September 26. After principal photography was over, the film was edited in Taiwan, dubbed in Thailand, and developed in Tokyo - a truly pan-Asian post production process leading up to the highly anticipated release to the world.
2003, Tokyo. A part of a residential neighborhood where the tramcars still run. Freelance writer Yoko (Yo Hitoto) has just returned from Taiwan the previous night. Before returning to her home in Takasaki, she decides to visit the second-hand bookstore in Jimbocho owned by Hajime (Tadanobu Asano), who has taken on the running of the store from his father. Hajime and Yoko first became friends when she began coming to his store searching for research materials. She has also come to know Hajime's best friend, Seiji (Masato Hagiwara), who owns a tempura restaurant and the three have become very close. Yoko is researching materials on the Taiwan-born musician Jiang Ewn-Ye who was also active in Japan, and Hajime is helping her in her search for these materials. Given that her parents divorced when she was just a child, Yoko was brought up in the rural northern island of Hokkaido by her uncle, who was troubled by poor eyesight, but she has since built up a relationship with her real father (Nenji Kobayashi) and his new wife (Kimiko Yo). Yoko returns to her father's house for the annual Obon festival in August. It is there when Yoko, who hasn't spent time with her parents for a long time announces the fact that she is pregnant. This sudden news shocks her father and step-mother into silence. Hajime, who is something of a railway fanatic likes nothing better than to record the sound of trains in his spare time. There are therefore many occasions when he and Yoko will meet up on station platforms. On her recent trip to Taiwan, Yoko has brought back an old pocket watch that used to be owned 50 years ago by a driver on the Taiwan railroads, as a gift for Hajime. Yoko feels that she can tell the silent and calm Hajime anything. She finds that when she is with Hajime, she feels an unusual peace of mind and special calmness of spirit in herself. Yoko is fond of coffee and has a favorite coffee shop with a favorite seat in particular wherever she goes. Yoko and Hajime talk about nothing of any consequence, and enjoy the peaceful flow of time with each other. On the other hand, Hajime who is fond of Yoko, is shocked to learn that she is pregnant and is unable to convey his own feelings. In the midst of this situation, Yoko receives word that her uncle in Hokkaido will undergo eye surgery. One day Yoko's parents come to Tokyo for the funeral of an acquaintance. While eating the mother's homemade potato stew in Yoko's apartment, the parents have it out with Yoko about her pregnancy. It turns out that the father was one of the students to whom she taught Japanese in Taiwan, who is now managing an umbrella factory in Amoy, but she has no intention of marrying him. Although he is worried for his daughter as an unmarried mother, her father cannot bring himself to put these feelings neatly into words. Yoko who has fallen asleep on the train wakes up and notices Hajime watching over her and is reassured. In the daylight of another ordinary afternoon, Yoko starts to evaluate her life, and consider her family and the new life growing inside her...