Two years after first hitting the festival circuit, this outing by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien finally gets a theatrical run in Boston (coinciding with its DVD release, oddly enough). Don't miss it--of all his films that I've seen, it might be my favorite.

Commissioned for the centenary of Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu's birth, CAFE LUMIERE is somewhat a tribute to him. Hou's first film entirely set in Japan, it follows Yoko (Yo Yohito), a young woman researching the life of Jiang Wenye, a 20th Century Taiwanese composer who lived in Japan for many years. Apart from her parents and people she interviews for her book on Wenye, the only other primary character is her friend, Hajime (Tadanobu Asano, from LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE and BRIGHT FUTURE), a quiet used-bookseller who loves to record the sounds of Tokyo subways.

As with most of the director's films, very little seems to happen (apart from one significant thing for Yoko) and it does so at a languid pace. At least 10% of the action is set inside or near a subway train. And yet, provided you don't doze off, what unfolds can be absolutely hypnotic. Hou studies the natural, unflashy rhythms of day-to-day Japanese life, subtly revealing beauty and grace in something as mundane as a storefront sign. Wenye's avant-classical piano music perfectly accompanies this, and, true to its title, the film often projects a warm, radiant glow. (4.5/5)