by Rob Boylan
Shunji Iwai has been one of my favorite directors for over a decade now, when I first saw All About Lily Chou-Chou and started importing his DVDs. This is the only way many of them are available, including April Story.
The hour-long April Story tells the story about a young girl (Takako Matsu) from Hokkaido who leaves her home town to go to university in Tokyo. Her reasons for travelling so far from home soon become apparent as she walks into a book shop.
Both in terms of visual beauty and story style, it fits firmly into the traditions of fairytale, but not in a juvenile way.
Iwai has posted it on his website in thanks to his fans fulfilling his request for photographs of cherry blossom trees blooming in April, which is an image that is at the core of the visual motif of the film. (You can still see many of these by looking up the Twitter hashtag #sakura_rev.)
You can watch it by clicking this link. It will only stream from May 2nd until May 31st, so don't miss out on this rare opportunity.