Monday, March 19, 2012

In the Flesh and Tokyo Sonata

Last Thursday we watched In the Flesh (1998), a gay whodunnit directed by Ben Taylor. Ed Corbin plays an undercover cop who falls for a young hustler, a very attractive Dane Ritter. Nothing very original there. Ritter witnesses the murder of his john and becomes a suspect. In the only sex scene of the movie, Ritter fucks a female friend in missionary position. The boys lie naked together in bed, but that's it.

Tokyo Sonata (2008), which we watched on Friday, shows the extent to which Japanese men would go to hide their unemployment from their families. Without a job, a man's authority in his home crumbles. Teruyuki Kagawa is convincing as a man who does not know what to do after his social scripts as employee, husband and father are torn up. His blankness is nicely counterbalanced by the suppressed passion of his long-suffering wife, played by Kyôko Koizumi, who attempts escape by driving off with a bungling burglar.

The family is finally brought back together by the piano-playing of the younger son, a very fine Kai Inowaki. When he tries for admission to a high school of music, his performance of Debussy's Clair de lune articulates the pain and longing, for which the family had no language. The plot of this movie directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa may be incredible in places, but the emotions ring true. The film captures an important moment of Japan's economic history, a face of Japan not usually seen in the West, but readily identifiable.


Patricia Markert said...

I love the films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa. He is precise in his portrayals of family relationship as necessary but flawed.

Jee Leong Koh said...

That is a good way of putting it.