Published Sep 11, 2008Kiyoshi Kurosawa abandons his genre roots for this bizarre drama, which is not entirely satisfactory but is never less than strange and affecting.
When a salary man finds himself downsized by his company, he decides to hide the fact from his family; his wife suspects, his youngest son wanders off and his eldest indulges a stupid fantasy of helping the world through fighting in Iraq. Nobody communicates and when the youngest pursues his penchant for piano, and becomes a prodigy, things get tense.
Its a great deal more complicated than all that, and the exact nuances of the plot explode in a deeply weird set of climaxes, but Kurosawas trying very hard to deal in a direct way with the unease that has permeated his more commercial projects, and his roping in of poverty, generational conflict and the deteriorating world around him is affecting even when its awkward. His sympathy is never in doubt and neither is his sincerity.
True, the weirdness of the plot doesnt hold a patch to some of his mysterious philosophical horror movies, and the literalness of the narrative line hobbles his ability to hit some of his earlier high notes. Hes too often on the nose with his political pedagogy, and a few developments smack less of drama than melodrama. But its still a very brave stab at expanding his range and bodes well for things to come.
Kurosawa is an artist looking for new ways to make movies. When he gets where hes going its going to be beautiful and youll need this to fully appreciate the trajectory of his development. Bonus: the Koji Yakusho cameo is hilarious. (Entertainment Farm)