Woodwork and film-work somehow work together, whatever the weather, in Shûichi Okita’s mountain woodland indie drama. It even has chainsaws and zombies. But not in a horrific way. It’s a comedy, after all.
The titular woodsman is Katsuhiko (Kôji Yakusho from such wonderful films as Shall We Dance? , The Eel  and 13 Assassins ) who, despite his generally compassionate nature, currently has a few precipitation problems, although this veteran of the forest is able to handle downpours and adjust his tree felling plans accordingly. But his lumberjack exploits are the cause of some consternation to young newbie movie director Koichi (Shun Oguri from Crows Zero  and Crows Zero II  and Sukiyaki Western Django ), who is making a film in the area and finds the noise disconcerting because it adds unwanted sound effects. That the sound is coming from Katsuhiko’s chainsaw should not appear to be an issue for a zombie horror film but, in this case, it is. Katsuhiko obligingly ceases sawing. But as the increasingly problematic shoot progresses, the cast, crew, financers and the weather seem to conspire to thwart poor Koichi’s plans, and the woodsman finds himself becoming involved with the filmmaking process. He even begins to form a friendship with the rookie director.
The central theme in The Woodsman and the Rain involves exploring the differences between cosmopolitan media types and hard-working country folk and about how each can learn from the other, often through cultural or technological misunderstandings. There is no preconception – no viewpoint is shown to be correct – it is the way that the central characters interact and how their cautious friendship develops that holds the audience’s attention. Katsuhiko and Koichi are both incredibly creative but, while the former is hugely experienced at what he does, he is a widower with a very insular outlook on life, and the latter seriously lacks confidence in his abilities. Katsuhiko has a sideline using his highly skilled practical woodwork techniques to make a shōgi (Japanese chess) set to play with his new acquaintance or even a director’s chair for his young sort-of new boss. The on-off relationship and the multiple misunderstandings between the pair that range from topics as diverse as culture to employment and even diet help develop the characterisation in a consistently enjoyable way. Whether the pair eventually understand each other emerges as an issue that may, or may not, resolve itself. Even as the rain threatens to drench everyone.
The addition of zombie genre tropes not only adds further cultural differences but also injects a large amount of humour to the film. The locals become involved as extras and shamble around the village wearing blue make-up, making for a disturbing sight when Katsuhiko’s family come to visit.
The Woodsman and the Rain won the Special Jury Prize at the 24th Tokyo International Film Festival in 2011 and the Audience Award at the Germany based 12th Nippon Connection in 2012 and with good reason, as it is consistently enjoyable, humorous and entertaining.