Rinco’s Restaurant (Japan, 2010)

Rinco’s Restaurant, director Mai Tominaga’s second feature, is a charming and delightful film, a sumptuous fairy tale with some David Lynchian touches. It’s the story of Rinco (Kou Shibasaki), a young girl who grows up in a village in Nako Mountain. Actually it’s nestled at the base of two mountains shaped like full firm breasts (“Twin Peaks” anyone?) rising like a pair of mounds from the earth. The villagers say that her unmarried mother, Ryuriko, “likes men,” which is to say that she’s morally loose.

After graduating from high school, Rinco goes to the big city to live with her grandmother,from whom she learns how to prepare many magically delicious dishes. Rinco decides to open a restaurant, but her Indian boyfriend abandons her, taking her love and her money, thus destroying her restaurant dream.

Rinco’s voice disappears and she returns to her village to live with her mother, who loves her darling pig Herumesu more than her own daughter. Rinco’s desire for a restaurant of her own returns, and with the aid of her friend Aosu, she transforms a small cabin set among some trees on a small rise near her mother’s house into The Snail Restaurant, a small affair with only one-table, albeit a fair-sized one. Her dishes are quickly recognized for their ability to make the diners’ wishes come true.

Within this tale one encounters a claim of a virgin mother and a “water gun baby” (that is, conceived by artificial insemination), a talking pig, and the remarkable transformation of a customer called Aunty. And there’s also a touching message about a mother’s true love.

I must say that the subtitles of my screener DVD often left a fair amount to be desired. Why, for example, do characters say “I’ve eaten” as they sit down to begin their meal? There were a number of grammatical and spelling errors (“adter” for “after”), and mistakes of genre pronouns (“him” for “her”). It’s possible that the subtitles at the screening will be better. The bottom line is that, if they’re not, be prepared to accept these mistakes, don’t dwell on them, and definitely don’t let them dissuade you from seeing the movie.

Finally, let me say that the images of the food that Rinco prepares are mouth-watering. I wanted to crawl into the LCD screen of my iMac and feast upon them. Since Wednesday’s showtime is 6:30, eat something light to tide you over. After watching Rinco’s Restaurant, you’ll definitely want to engage in some fine dining, preferably at a Japanese restaurant.

And if you should see the film somewhere else, bear the above advice in mind also. Your taste buds and tummy will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Rinco‚Äôs Restaurant screens Wednesday, July 13th at 6:30 PM at Japan Society, NYC. This screening, part of Japan Cuts 2011: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema, will be the film’s U.S. Premiere. For tickets, click here.