Shuichi Okita is one of the few Japanese directors working today who has an immediately recognizable style, though it’s less a matter of camera angles than his way of looking at the world. A wry observational humor runs through his work, combined with a warm but unsentimental humanism.

His films may get tagged as quirky comedies, but they are grounded in universal human issues, from facing your fears of failure (“The Woodsman and the Rain”) to finding your place in the world, however small (“Mori, the Artist’s Habitat”). And in contrast to the darkness of so much of serious Japanese cinema, Okita’s work exudes a gentle optimism: His characters are good people who may not always win but do not go down in bitter defeat. Like many of us, they muddle along.

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