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The other Kurosawa – Kiyoshi

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    I’m just back now from seeing the new movie by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Tokyo Sonata. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after reading one fanboys comments on imdb that Kiyoshi is the ‘real’ genius, I went with mixed feelings. I haven’t seen his other movies – from what I know they are sort of pseudo arty J-horror movies, a sort of classier Takashi Miiake.

    Its a pretty interesting film I have to say, if not a great success. I think it was Richie who said that every Japanese film maker ends up making his Ozu film, and for the first half hour or so this film is very Ozu- like. Lots of beautifully composed shots featuring a middle class moderately dysfunctional Japanese family going about their daily business unaware that the father of the family has been laid off as his company is off-shoring his admin job to China. He pretends nothing has happened, spending his days hanging out with other deluded salarimen in parks and libraries, while his wife and two sons are oblivious.

    From there, the film (for me) loses its way, as the plot descends into a sort of Haruki Murakami magical realism, with all sorts of bizarre coincidences occurring, including a particularly pointless subplot involving Iraq. Its still very watchable, and Kurosawa partly rescues it in the end with a nicely judged ending that stops just a millimeter short of sentimentality.

    The film won one of the minor awards at Cannes, and it is certainly both an interesting look at modern middle class Japanese life and is aesthetically very pleasing (Kurosawa has a real eye for unexpected beauty in more mundane urban landscapes). But dramatically I think its a bit of a dud – there is far too much pointless manipulation of the characters and some quite bizarre subplots that (for me) didn’t illuminate anything, they just broke the mood. But judging from some of the warm reviews it got, others don’t seem to agree.

    But I think everyone on this forum would be interested in a modern Japanese movie that makes more than a few nods at classic 1950’s film, especially Ozu.

    I also saw a few days ago the new Korean movie, The Good, the Bad and the Weird. Its a completely demented (in a good way) tribute to Sergio Leones classic. I went to see it as I was sort of curious to see how Asian cinema could rip off a genre that was originally ripped off Kurosawa. Its typical Korean stuff – amazing action, brilliant mixing of CGI with live action, and completely pointless. The action sequences really are great, and I have to admit to loving most of it, unfortunately its a little overlong and the ending is a bit of a dud. But if you feel like leaving your brain behind at the cinema door, you could do a lot worse.

    Oh, and last night I was homebound with a cold and I watched Ozu’s Late Spring. Its even more truly wonderful than I remembered.



    Nice review, I have not yet seen this movie, but will be sure to check it out.

    I do here this movie is getting more popular in Japan, as real-life unemployment goes up, and bewildered salary-man hang around at parks is becoming the norm.

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