At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
March is “The Month of Disastrous Life” at Film Space.
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave at least 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, March 6, at 7 pm: Tôkyô sonata / Tokyo Sonata /トウキョウソナタ(2008) by Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 120 mins – Japan/ Netherlands/ Hong Kong, Drama. Generally favorable reviews: 80/81 out of 100.
At right, the hero of Tokyo Sonata – a typical
Japanese salaryman: a dark-suited drone,
grinding away at a safe dull joband playing the
infallible provider at home . . . until his job disappears.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: J-Horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa turns successfully to dramedy and gives a unique (and specifically national) perspective to the universal subjects of family and identity.
Best known in the United States for bizarre and unsettling horror films like Pulse and Cure, Kiyoshi Kurosawa ventures away from that category with Tokyo Sonata. Of course, Kurosawa is incapable of directing a straightforward picture, and Tokyo Sonata is no exception. Retaining the same masterful control over mood and atmosphere that he has displayed throughout his career, Kurosawa infuses this family drama with an underlying tension that permeates the film even during its most humorous moments. The story concerns a Japanese businessman, husband, and father of two, who unexpectedly loses his job. Unable to break the news to his devoted wife, he dresses up every morning and pretends to go to work, instead wasting the days away with a former classmate who is also unemployed. Although they aren't aware of his contradictory behavior, his family begins to disobey him nonetheless. His teenage son enlists in the Army in order to fight for the United States, while his adolescent son goes behind his back to take piano lessons. The longer his charade goes on, the less control he has as patriarch, creating an even deeper divide between him and his family. With Tokyo Sonata, Kurosawa has produced one of his most original and accomplished works. Equal parts social commentary and situational comedy, Kurosawa's film also feels like a thriller, thanks to the exceptionally atmospheric work from cinematographer Akiko Ashizawa and composer Kazumasa Hashimoto.
Worcester Diversions, Jim Keogh: In Tokyo Sonata the shame of unemployment for a laid-off Japanese executive is like a demon gnawing away at everything he values: his relationship with his wife and sons, his perception of himself as a man, his very sanity. The humiliation is so intense for Ryuhei Sasaki, that he pretends to head off to work each morning rather than reveal the truth to his family — subjecting himself to demeaning interviews (including one where he’s ordered to sing karaoke) and commiserating with other unemployed men who crowd the park benches wearing suits for show.
But this film is no easy parable about the terrors a weak economy wreaks on the white-collar populace (you need only read a newspaper for that story). Instead, Tokyo Sonata reveals how Ryuhei’s work situation is a symptom of deeper problems in the Sasaki household, where wife Megumi is evolving into a desperate housewife, disaffected by an existence of ceaseless service to her family, and younger son Kenji shows promise as a piano prodigy but can’t rally the support of his father, who regards music as a frivolous pursuit.
Tokyo Sonata asks whether it is possible to retrofit the mind of a man for whom centuries of acculturation have wired him to believe certain things, to act a certain way. We can all empathize with the indignity of Ryuhei having his professional status downgraded, but from this distant shore it’s impossible to fully comprehend the elaborate ruses that Ryuhei would rather implement than tell his family the truth as his vision of a patriarch-dominated homestead crumbles.
Salon.com Andrew O'Hehir: A work of tremendous passion, daring, and delicacy.
At Film Space Saturday, March 13, at 7 pm: Nobody Knows / Dare mo shiranai / 誰も知らない(2004) by Hirokazu Kore-eda – 141 mins – Japan, Drama. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88/84 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: Tragic and haunting, a beautifully heart-wrenching portrait of child abandonment.
Yuya Yagira was named Best Actor at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for his moving portrayal of the older brother trying desperately to support his three younger siblings in writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda's masterful work Nobody Knows. Kore-eda (Maborosi, After Life) also produced and edited the film, which was nominated for the Palm d'Or and was Japan's entry for the Academy Awards. Yagira stars as Akira, a determined and resourceful 12-year-old boy forced to take care of Kyoko (Ayu Kitaura), Shigeru (Hiei Kimura), and Yuki (Momoko Shimizu) every time their mother, Keiko (Japanese pop star and TV actress YOU), goes away for extended periods of time. Akira does the shopping, Kyoko does the laundry, Shigeru causes trouble, and Yuki is endlessly cute. However, in order to remain in their new apartment, the three younger children are not allowed outside or else the landlord, who does not know they live there, will evict them. Akira tries to teach his sisters and brother, as none of them attends school, with varying success. They have no friends, save for Saki (Hanae Kan), an offbeat outsider. When Keiko disappears and the money starts running out, the children are faced with severe problems, and tragedy lurks. Kore-eda based this powerful tale on a true story of abandoned children, and he has filmed Nobody Knows with a documentarian's eye, lending it added reality that makes it that much more heartwarming and, ultimately, heartbreaking.
Film brain: Hirokazu Koreeda's latest film, Nobody Knows, with its "ripped straight from the tabloid headlines" theme is prime movie-of-the-week material. Four children, ranging in age from five to twelve, are left to fend for themselves in a Tokyo apartment after their mother abandons them. A thousand and one dire films could easily have been made from this premise, yet Koreeda manages to avoid every possible cliché and pitfall (and there are many) in his take on events that actually did occur back in 1988. Dubbed "The Affair of the Four Abandoned Children of Nishi-Sugamo,” it was a nationwide scandal that ended with events far more horrifying than Koreeda's fictionalized account.
Keiko (played by Japanese TV personality You) is a single mother with four children from different fathers. The film opens with her moving into a new apartment with her eldest son Akira (Cannes best actor winner Yuya Yagira). As it would be impossible for her to rent the place with four children, their presence can only be made after the movers leave, and this sequence is one of the films most memorable (and quite striking). Though the children are forced to live by You's strict set of rules -- no noise, no school, no going outside -- they make the best of it, as only young children can do. Keiko begins disappearing on a regular basis -- first for a night, then a few weeks, and eventually forever. In her absence, Akira must care for his siblings -- his sister Kyoko, just a year or two younger than Akira, and on the brink of adolescence, Shigeru, a rambunctious boy, and Yuki, his other sister, just five years old. Akira willingly accepts this responsibility, and his calm and patient demeanor is remarkable for a boy his age, as is his ultimate acceptance of the truth about their abandonment. Only once does he pass judgment on his mother, a comment that she simply ignores. Though dedicated to his siblings (he even buys presents, telling them they came from their mother), Akira occasionally seeks out normal childhood pleasures -- video games, playing baseball, making friends -- and it is these moments that give the film such a naturalistic quality.
The casting of You as the mother, with her childlike voice and expressions was clearly intentional. It's as if Koreeda wants us to reconsider how we think about her. While her real-life counterpart was branded a monster (and sent to prison), Koreeda chooses to portray her as almost a fifth child, thereby making her disappearance seem more like youthful irresponsibility than a calculated, heartless effort. This is a daring move -- other filmmakers would feel the need to lay blame and include many finger-wagging morality lessons, as well as the resulting punishment.
The film is mostly from the children's perspective, and Koreeda spends a fair amount of time on the mundane tasks the children repeat day after day, and there are many close-ups of little hands and feet fidgeting, standing on tiptoe to check on the washing machine, playing with nail polish, etc. It's a powerful effect that draws you in, yet it avoids sentimentality or playing up the sensationalism of the affair. In all of its 141 minutes, it never once slips into melodrama. The music might be a bit overdone at times, but fortunately it's kept to a minimum.
That the children (both in real life and in the film) are able to live alone in this apartment unnoticed for nearly a year is bewildering. Even when the kids begin freely coming and going in tattered, dirty clothes, the neighbors do nothing about it. Yet once again, Koreeda is not interested in passing judgment on a society that either turned a blind eye, or simply chose not to care. This film is strictly about the experience as lived by the children -- and it is for this reason that the film is so wonderful. While Yuya Yagira's win at Cannes might have been too extreme a gesture, his performance is one of those rare capturings of genuine childhood -- on par with Jean-Pierre Léaud in The 400 Blows. Some have criticized the film (and Koreeda) for softening the real story, but just as Distant (his previous film, unreleased in the US) dealt with the after-effect of a fictionalized Aum Shirikyo attack, so is this film concerned not with a simple recreation of events, but an attempt at presenting the children as something other than victims. (Michael Atkinson refers to it as a film about the "fragile reality of childhood" -- a perfect description.)
Nobody Knows isn't always an easy film to watch -- as the seasons go by and the conditions worsen (the film was shot chronologically), it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to passively observe the inevitable downward spiral. Still, it's one that shouldn't be missed.
At Film Space Saturday, March 20, 7 pm: Requiem for a Dream (2000) by Darren Aronofsky – 102 mins – US, Drama. Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans.The hopes and dreams of four ambitious people are shattered when their drug addictions begin spiraling out of control. Rated R in the US for intense depiction of drug addiction, graphic sexuality, strong language, and some violence. Generally favorable reviews: 68/68 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus:Though the movie may be too intense for some to stomach, the wonderful performances and the bleak imagery are hard to forget.
For his follow-up to his darkly brilliant debut, Pi, director Darren Aronofsky chose to adapt a tough and meaty piece of work: Hubert Selby's 1968 novel Requiem for a Dream, a dark spiral into the abyss of barren fantasies doomed to extinction. However, in Aronofsky's frenetic, visionary, unique, and disturbing style lies the perfect setting for this story of four people whose intertwined lives are filled with eternally hopeful despair. This is a different sort of horror film. Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) and Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly) are lovers in Brooklyn with dreams of setting up a small business and spending the rest of their lives in love--their version of the American dream. The two are also desperate heroin addicts, a compulsion that darkens their lives and leads Harry to repeatedly pawn his mother's television. His mother, Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), is addicted to television, which is why she keeps replacing the stolen set. One day she receives a call from her favorite show, the surreal Tappy Tibbons Show, and learns that she has been selected to appear on an upcoming broadcast. When she can't fit into her best red dress, her doctor prescribes diet pills (uppers), to which she swiftly and painfully becomes addicted. Harry's cohort, an intelligent hustler named Tyrone (Marlon Wayans), completes the foursome. With its unflinching dissection of addiction, Requiem for a Dream is a psychologically disturbing, visually captivating depiction of lost hope. The last half hour of the film is among the most harrowing of any film ever made.