Friday, June 12, 2009

Tokyo Sonata

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Tokyo Sonata" is a profound and extraordinary yet flawed film. It follows an affluent Japanese family who start to lose control since the chemical balance of position is disrupted. How exactly? It's a ripple effect. The father (Teruyuki Kagawa), who maintains a steady hand in the family and has the same disconnect that many fathers do, gets discharged at work, and falls into the unrelenting grasp of unemployment. As his friend does, he tries to hide his misfortune from his family. Why exactly? Well, because control and dignity are important in an affluent Japanese family. This is felt since he's lost both, and he can't bear to show it.

His younger son Kenji (Inowaki Kai) wants desperately to play the piano (for good reason), and his older son Takashi (Yu Koyanagi) wants to enlist in the American army. Since he's consumed by his losses, the father tries to restrict them. His wife (Kyoko Koizumi) understands and sees beyond the literal plain. This also helps when she's held at knifepoint by a desperate ex-locksmith (Haruka Igawa), whom she helps with insight. It's a bizarre turn of events, but Kurosawa turns it into a unique and amazing piece of transcendence.

The film is like a Japanese adaptation of Ian McEwan's "Saturday," what with the constant realism sprinkled with insanity. But there's even more than that here. "Tokyo Sonata" concludes perfectly and shows how beauty triumphs over currency and need of dignity. There's much more to life than the father first realizes. Kurosawa, Max Mannix, and Sachiko Tanaka create a great script on these ideas, one that's at once sad and subtly funny. The acting is also very good as well. The real flaws of "Tokyo Sonata" come from the editing department. Like Teruyuki Kagawa's character, Koichi Takahashi (the film editor) has a hard time keeping a steady hand, and like the character again, sometimes is a little too strict. If it was a little tighter, the film could be in control. Kurosawa’s brilliance, however, should not be overshadowed, and “Tokyo Sonata,” I reiterate, is a very strong representation of despair and its destruction, but furthermore what can be salvaged and finding the place where you are most comfortable. A-

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