Life Tastes Good

Director: Philip Kan Gotanda
Screenwriters: Philip Kan Gotanda

Institute History

  • 1999 Sundance Film Festival


Director Philip Kan Gotanda returns to Sundance (his short, Drinking Tea, played in the 1996 Festival) with his feature debut, Life Tastes Good, a truly unique composition of quirky characters skillfully wrapped in a tale of romance, comedy, and film-noir detective mystery. Collaborating again with actor Sab Shimono, Gotanda creates a funny, yet powerfully allegorical, story of a rogue mobster who finds love in the darkest days of his life.
Harry (Shimono), a dying mobster, travels to San Francisco to prepare a fatal meal of a rare and poisonous mushroom known as angel’s nightcap. Before he can kill himself, Harry must reconcile with his grown children, Julie (TamLyn Tomita) and Howard (Greg Watanabe), whom he abandoned many years before. Seeking forgiveness for his absence, Harry decides to present his discontented children with a suitcase full of money.
The problem is that Harry stole the money from the mob and must now hide out in a warehouse to avoid Mr. Jones (played by Gotanda himself), a kinky killer who murders his victims with his black-leathered finger. While laying low, Harry encounters a beautiful and mysterious woman (Julia Nickson) and unexpectedly becomes obsessed with her as his health wanes. With a nostalgic air, Life Tastes Good expands convention to create a fresh portrait of a man’s attempt at reconciliation and love within a world both familiar and bizarre. Haunting images, moving relationships, and wildly funny situations are expertly blended into a delectable cinematic experience.

Philip Kan Gotanda, Director
Philip Kan Gotanda’s first two films—the shorts The Kiss and Drinking Tea—were both selected to screen at Sundance. He attended the 1997 Sundance Filmmakers Lab and has been an advisor for the Sundance Institute’s Theatre Program. His two latest plays, Yohen, starring Danny Glver, and Sisters Matsumoto are opening this month. Life Tastes Good is his feature film debut. He holds a law degree from Hastings College of Law and studied pottery in Japan under the late Hiroshi Seto.

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]