Morikazu Kumagai (aka Mori) was born in 1880 and became one of Japan's most celebrated 20th- century painters. His gift for painting was recognized very early on in his career but the opinions of critics and fame were never his priority. His sporadic output didn't result in sales. He didn't own a house and survived with friends' help until the age of 50 when his paintings began to sell and he could at last support his family.
The Emperor was full of admiration for a Kumagai painting he saw at the prestigious Nika Art Exhibition. This brought recognition to Kumagai who was known as the "hermetic sage with a paintbrush" but Kumagai twice turned down the Emperor's Japanese order of Culture award. The reason he gave for declining these awards was that he was already receiving too many visitors. True to his reclusive nature, he barely left his 60-square-meter home for 30 years. He didn't have to because he observed animals and plants in his little garden, especially during the last decades of his life, which this quiet and eloquent film depicts.
From Japanese filmmaker Okita Shuichi, who directed such beloved HIFF films THE STORY OF YONOSUKE and THE MOHICAN COMES HOME among many others, MORI, THE ARTIST’S HABITAT captures the genteel life of one of Japan’s most celebrated painters.