claire 💖 diane’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sixty in September: 27/60
Simply endearing. It has compassion big enough to swallow fears and miseries. The world rolls by slowly. Gargantuan valleys and vast mountains and forests. The photography is beautiful. The depths and vastness of the locations is incredible. And Arigato-san trundles through in his bus, a place in the huge world where people might briefly connect.
Even the mustachioed man, who grumbles greatly, is only prodded gently by the young woman. We know his pretensions hide his own troubles, which are revealed when he is the first to look earnestly for sweets and drink. He's one of them too. Or when the young woman, with a kind of deflecting bravado says she wishes she had a man who would pine after her, perhaps I'll dream of him. She's quite alone, too. Like everyone is in their way.
And we don't really come to know very much about anyone, but Arigato-san remembers their stories. He helps them in need. Carries their messages, brings back records. He's mostly very quiet. He has space in his heart for all of them.
His final act of the film is one of the profoundest kindness and sacrifice, and yet it is mostly elided. And the young woman, who has instigated it, has slipped out of the film. It reminds me that we slip in and out of each other's lives. How wonderful, precious, fleeting these moments are. How important it is to listen, to hear, to see. How momentous the impact of unspoken things. Arigato-san has careful eyes and ears.
I love how light it is and how deep and dark it is. The beautiful world of the countryside and its terribly human troubles. How the bus is a little place for outsiders and refugees. But, as Arigato-san stops repeatedly to help those on the road, I realize he is the real vessel. That's why he doesn't seem to mourn the loss of his Chevrolet. His bus overflows into all the people who love him, all the people he thanks. How his thank yous are an act of love or loving, quietly, marvelously. And he thanks the chickens, too.
The notes to the Criterion Eclipse set tell how Shimizu filmed this with no shooting script, all on location. The encounter with the road-worker woman was completely by accident. He decided to include her in the film. It is historically striking, Criterion says, because she was a Korean, one of the country's most marginalized groups. There's a verite marvel to it all, with a real heart.
I hear it again, sometimes. Time is slow and long. So is trouble and grief. Being together is short. Cinema is seeing, remembering. A kind of love. Mr. Thank You tells me to remember. Tells me to be quiet and listen. To open my heart. Be like the woman on the bus. Strong and sharing. It was a slice of life. Souls floating together for the slightest instant. It's that peculiar intermingled joy and pain of looking at the beautiful valleys as they pass away. It doesn't change anything really -- a dark fate awaits or a wedding or a wake or madness or pining after a lost lover -- but it resonates in you, and you may find yourself smiling. And you might get to share a few words with your fellows. It's the light of being seen by someone.
Soon, I must get off the bus. And I'm alone on the road. I start to understand the half stoic look I imagine on Arigato-san's face. All he holds and all he must let pass by him. I am where all my memories live, as the film stops. It's very lonely walking by yourself. And most of it is walking. But when I pass you and you smile, my heart is quietly saying, "Thank you!" Then I'm off again, into long, slow time.
I've had just a glimpse of everyone. It's all imperfect. But I want to do the difficult and necessary and easy and ordinary remembering. I have my memories, such as they are, very bittersweet. I'm glad for them. Remembering is a kind of strength when the world is lowering blackly around you. Troubles are certain. But you saw me. Spoke to me. I won't forget you!