I got to see A Stitch of Life on the flight home from San Francisco. I was delighted my United plane had personal TVs because I used to find such good foreign films that way.
A Stitch of Life is a Japanese film about Ichie who’s taken over her grandmother’s tailoring business. A young buyer urges her to create a brand and for most of the film she refuses as a “successor’s role is to carry on the originator’s work.” So Ichie will only alter or rework her grandmother’s designs. Her grandmother made clothes that lasted a lifetime, dresses and suits people wanted to wear their whole lives. Every year she held a soirée for her customers and they came in their favorite clothes and danced.
The film slowly unfolds as the buyer persists in getting to know Ichie’s process and talent. While he’s a pest, he’s not a stalker. He’s entranced by her mastery, her art and feels she’s making a mistake in not creating her own designs, in not branding her works. He reveres her talent and the more he sees her world the more he realizes that mass marketing would ruin her. In her small, traditional workshop she not only creates art, she creates community.
In the end the film is about art and craft, and what we lose when an art or craft dies. It’s a powerful examination and elegy for traditional arts. Simply beautiful.