Tokyo Sonata

Posted March 26, 2009 in Film

A sonata is written for three or four instruments, each committed to their independent melody. Writer director Kiyoshi Kurosawa spins a fractured family into music, though the tone is more like a dirge. Father Ryuhei (Teruyuki Kagawa) thinks his responsibilities to the family begin and end at his salaryman paycheck. When he gets replaced for the cost of three cheaper Chinese workers, he holds his shame inside, dressing for work everyday and standing in absurdly long lines for rice porridge and blue collar work that seem inspired by Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Ryuhei thinks piano lessons for his sullen youngest son Kenji (Inowaki Kai) are as good as pouring money down the sewer; he’s aware his refusal is mostly foolish, but can’t sacrifice his manhood by backing down—especially when he’s sure he went too soft on screw up older son Takashi (Yu Koyanagi). These elements sound borrowed from American suburban melodrama, but the tone is cool and measured, with the distanced fascination of a nature show. The soul of Kurosawa’s film is housewife Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi), meek, invisible, and forever making meals and cleaning the house without acknowledgement, let alone thanks. When she dares to get a drivers license, the response is resounding apathy. Kurosawa has more interesting things in store for her character than suppressed rage bursting into liberation—after she’s kidnapped by a desperate burglar, Megumi reacts with radical passivity, an acceptance that shocks the dormant agonies of this film like a monster that can no longer be contained. (Amy Nicholson)


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