Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Countries & Regions: Japan
Length: 120 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 13 February 2012
Cat No: EKA70059
Languages(s): Japanese, English
Screen ratio 1:1.85
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Tokyo Sonata (Masters of Cinema)
Japanese drama directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Loyal employee Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) is made redundant when his company begins... Read More
Like so many in these straightened times, Ryûhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) has suffered a personal economic crisis: after many years of loyal service, his company has downsized him out of a job. Too proud to tell his wife (Kyôko Koizumi), he gamely carries on as before, spending his days fruitlessly searching for further employment and being the best-dressed man at the soup kitchens.
Keen to preserve his domestic authority, the sham salary man forbids his younger son from taking piano lessons: but the lad is as skilled at deception as his father and ignores the sanction. It isn't long before family life starts buckling under the combined weight of their lies.
This is not the first film to deal with the trauma of redundancy – both The Full Monty and Laurent Cantet's Time Out have characters who could stand alongside Sasaki in the job centre – but Tokyo Sonata tackles the subject with originality and considerable ambition.
It is, of course, a family drama – a particularly vivid and mordant one at that. It avoids the easy sentimentality traditionally associated with such things and instead mines a rich vein of black comedy as the world finds ever more inventive ways to humiliate Ryûhei. But while the film delights in complicating things for the Sasaki clan, it never denies the possibility of hope. It builds toward a perfectly judged final scene that shows the value of hard-won optimism.
For all that, Tokyo Sonata is as much a depiction of a nation ill at ease with itself as it is a personal story. As such, it bears comparison to other Japanese filmmakers like Yasujiro Ozu and the director’s more famous namesake, Akira-san. It shows Japan uncomfortably caught between tradition and modernity, a country defined by the lies it tells itself.
Unusually for a domestic drama, it is richly visual. Hitherto best known for his horror films, Kiyoshi Kurosawa here shows what a confident filmmaker he is, employing beautiful photography and staging the action in long, precise takes. He richly deserves his place in the Masters of Cinema range: this is a major film and comes highly recommended.