Blood and Bones Yoichi Sai

Blood and BonesYoichi Sai
You sure won’t find a high-kicking good time in the singularly bleak Blood and Bones. Its portrait of a brutal family dictator, played with lethal precision by Takeshi Kitano, is uncompromising enough to shred your nerves and destroy your self-esteem. But stick with it and you’ll ultimately be rewarded with its thorough inside-out analysis of how a family can destroy itself. Based on a memoir by Sogil Yan, it tells the story of Kim Joon-pyon (Kitano), a Korean immigrant in Japan who parlayed a fish cake factory into a loan-sharking empire. Though there is some mention of Japanese racism, the film is mostly concerned with Kim’s outrageous behaviour, which includes battery, rape, murder, exploiting workers and siring dozes of children with a roster of women. Though told from the point of view of long-suffering son Masao (Hirofumi Arai), the film finds him in terrified thrall to this monstrous father and powerless to do anything in the face of familial indifference. And so we discover the no-exit nightmare of anyone unlucky enough to fall under the influence of this oppressor, with some more abused than others and one driven over the edge to suicide. Many directors would have trivialised or sensationalised the material but director Yoichi Sai strikes the right balance of horror and restraint. Though it would be impossible to dial-down the intensity of the patriarch’s disgusting behaviour, he doesn’t revel in it like a less committed director might and is sensitive to the dynamics of the other family members instead of just ladling on the brutality. This clearly isn’t for everybody but for those who can take it it’s a worthwhile, though by no means easy, 144 minutes. (Seville)