Tokyo Sonata

"Good"

Tokyo Sonata Review


The differential separating Kiyoshi Kurosawa's bizarre Tokyo Sonata from his oeuvre of uneasy art-thrillers is that its eerie atmosphere isn't brought on by signs of the paranormal. Though built on a variation on Laurent Cantet's dire Time Out, Sonata is not haunted by the ghosts of technology and history, nor does it thematically concern itself with the threat of contagion. Well, at least not directly.

Entering the office one day, Ryuhei (Teruyuki Kagawa), husband and father of two, finds his job thrown to a younger man and his new place at the back of the unemployment line. He goes home and acts as if nothing happened, even helping a fellow severed salaryman with his own charade. Meanwhile, his eldest son (Yu Koyanagi) thinks his best place is in the U.S. Army, serving the Iraq Occupation. On the other hand, his youngest son (Kai Inowaki) takes his lunch money and begins taking piano lessons. Ryuhei approves of neither.

The fourth member of the family is Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi), loyal mother and wife. Running errands, Megumi sees her husband waiting in the free-porridge line with an assortment of other unemployed suit-and-ties. She says nothing to her children nor to her husband, even when Ryuhei's repressed, volcanic anger becomes a household hazard. As time goes by, children leaving and husband brooding, her steadfast habit of calling her family to the dinner table becomes more and more unsteady. Yet, it isn't till Ryuhei takes a job as a janitor at a mall that her reality is entirely compromised.

Though it would be easy to ponder Kurosawa's latest as a trip into the disillusionment of our current economy, it has loftier aspirations, with Ryuhei's world deteriorating to a point where he can't even recognize his family. The film could easily be re-titled Ghost World. Though tradition has a lot to do with Tokyo Sonata, it's strange realizing that it's not Japanese tradition that feels endangered so much as Western. The totems of pre-war Japan are nowhere to be found, unless one takes Megumi's obsessive housewife routine as something more intrinsically Japanese than American. Globalization and endangered masculinity abound, and the narrative makes no little business of how Ryuhei's loss of identity mirrors his own country's.

What tradition can be found is upended. Ryuhei's youngest reveals himself as a piano prodigy but any pride his father may have had is eclipsed by his livid reaction to disobedience. The youngest's story straightens out, but Ryuhei and Megumi encounter their breaking points both narratively and psychologically speaking. As father finds a cache of hidden drug money, mother encounters a burglar (Kôji Yakusho, Kurosawa's dependable leading man of choice) who kidnaps her, threatens her, and is then asked to run away with her.

If there's a major complaint to be made about Sonata, it is that, like 2007's Retribution, the director doesn't fully embrace the tone of his film. In his best work (Pulse, Cure), Kurosawa blends exclamatory scenes with a sustained mood (the plane engulfed in flames flying overhead in Pulse). Here, digressions into shock and horror disrupt the smoldering drama, but this may be the point. These two diversions into criminal theatrics not only break Ryuhei and Megumi's fragile mindset, but also the viewer's concepts. Though punctuated by an optimistic, gorgeous coda, it would seem Kurosawa's "detour" is meant to be just as unnerving as his J-horror freak-outs.

Aka Tôkyô sonata.

Baby Zamboni!



Facts and Figures

Run time: 120 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 27th September 2008

Box Office USA: $0.1M

Distributed by: Regent Releasing

Production compaines: Django Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 79 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: , Yukie Kito

Starring: as Ryuhei Sasaki, Kyôko Koizumi as Megumi Sasaki, Yû Koyanagi as Takashi Sasaki, Kai Inowaki as Kenji Sasaki

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Zoolander 2 Movie Review

Zoolander 2 Movie Review

With virtually the same blend of wit and idiocy as the 2001 original, this fashion-scene...

A Bigger Splash Movie Review

A Bigger Splash Movie Review

Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) reteams with Tilda Swinton for this fresh, tricky...

Deadpool Movie Review

Deadpool Movie Review

Both the filmmakers and the characters on-screen are so pleased with themselves that this might...

Trumbo Movie Review

Trumbo Movie Review

An entertaining film about sobering true events, this is the story of notorious screenwriter Dalton...

Goosebumps Movie Review

Goosebumps Movie Review

Mixing the action, comedy and horror from novelist R.L. Stein's books into a family-friendly package,...

Dad's Army Movie Review

Dad's Army Movie Review

The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight Movie Review

This film demonstrates that you don't need guns to make an exciting thriller. Based on...

Advertisement
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

Not the subtlest director working in Hollywood, Michael Bay brings his surging machismo to this...

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

There's nothing clever about this deliberately rude and vulgar comedy, but certain audiences will find...

The Big Short Movie Review

The Big Short Movie Review

Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using...

The 5th Wave Movie Review

The 5th Wave Movie Review

Also based on the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic teen novels, this thriller feels...

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart reteam for a sequel no one really asked for, following...

Room Movie Review

Room Movie Review

One of the most extraordinary films of the year, this drama cleverly weaves in events...

Creed Movie Review

Creed Movie Review

While this film is basically Rocky VII, it's also much more than that, and perhaps...

A Perfect Day Movie Review

A Perfect Day Movie Review

An irreverent comedy in the style of the original M.A.S.H., this wartime romp takes an...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.