Tokyo Sonata (Masters of Cinema) (Deleted, last stocks) DVD
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Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Produced in 2008
Main Language - Japanese with English subtitles
James Oliver highly recommends this vivid family drama which bears comparison with the works of Ozu and Akira Kurosawa
Like so many in these straightened times, Ryūhei 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 (Kyōko 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 Ryūhei. 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.
James Oliver on 31st May 2009
Author of 184 reviews
Tokyo Sonata, the latest film from Kiyoshi Kurosawa – the hugely acclaimed Japanese director famous for his groundbreaking, existential horror films such as Cure and Kairo [Pulse] – set Cannes alight in 2008 with a surprising change of pace to that staple of Japanese cinema, the family drama.
When Ryuhei Sasaki (played by Teruyuki Kagawa) is unceremoniously dumped from his ‘safe’ company job, his family's happy, humdrum life is put at risk. Unwilling to accept the shame of unemployment, the loyal salaryman decides not to tell anyone, instead leaving home each morning in suit and tie with briefcase, spending his days searching for work and lining up for soup with the homeless. Outstanding performances; serene, elegant direction; and Kurosawa's trademark chills are evident as he ratchets up the unsettling atmosphere and the grim hopelessness of Sasaki's unemployment.
In today’s economically uncertain times, this highly topical film – an eerie, poignant reflection on the mass uncertainty sweeping the world – is widely regarded as Kurosawa’s finest achievement and was the only Japanese film to receive an award at the Cannes Film Festival 2008 (Jury Prize winner of Un Certain Regard).
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 119 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 22nd June 2009
Cat No: EKA40303
- Luminous HD transfer of the film in its original aspect ratio
- Newly translated optional English subtitles
- Making-of Documentary (60 minutes)
- Japanese press junkets, cast and crew interviews, award ceremonies
- Original UK theatrical trailer
- 28-page booklet containing a brand new essay by writer B. Kite.
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