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Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) has trouble facing his sudden unemployment in Kiyoshi Kurosawas Tokyo Sonata

Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) has trouble facing his sudden unemployment in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata

TOKYO SONATA (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2008)
Walter Reade Theater, Film Society of Lincoln Center
165 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Aves.
Tuesday, August 7, 6:45
Festival runs through August 9

Winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes, Tokyo Sonata serves as a parable for modern-day Japan. Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) is a simple family man, with a wife, Megumi (Kyōko Koizumi), two sons, Takashi (Yu Koyanagi) and Kenji (Kai Inowaki), and an honest job as an administration director for a major company. When Ryuhei is suddenly let go — he is being replaced by much cheaper Chinese labor — he is so ashamed, he doesn’t tell his family. Instead, he puts on his suit every day and, briefcase in hand, walks out the door, but instead of going to work, he first waits on line at the unemployment agency, then at an outdoor food kitchen for a free lunch with the homeless — and other businessmen in the same boat as he is. Taking out his anger on his family, Ryuhei refuses to allow Kenji to take piano lessons and protests strongly against Takashi’s desire to join the American military. But then, on one crazy night — which includes a shopping mall, a haphazard thief (Koji Yakusho), a convertible, and some unexpected violence — it all comes to a head, leading to a brilliant finale that makes you forget all of the uneven missteps in the middle of the film, which is about a half hour too long anyway.

Kagawa (Sukiyaki Western Django, Tokyo!), is outstanding as the sad-sack husband and father, matched note for note by the wonderful pop star Koizumi (Hanging Garden, Adrift in Tokyo), who searches for strength as everything around her is falling apart. And it’s always great to see Yakusho, the star of such films as Kurosawa’s Cure, Shohei Imamura’s The Eel, Rob Marshall’s Memoirs of a Geisha, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel, seen here as a wild-haired, wild-eyed wannabe burglar. Tokyo Sonata, which is warmly photographed by Akiko Ashizawa, is screening August 7 at 6:45 in the Film Society of Lincoln Center series “The Female Gaze,” consisting of nearly three dozen films shot by women, investigating whether they bring something different to cinematic storytelling than men do. The series continues through August 9 with such other works as Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy, photographed by Crystel Fournier; Wim Wenders’s Pina in 3D, photographed by Hélène Louvart; Babette Mangolte’s The Camera: Je or La Camera: I, photographed by Mangolte; and Jacques Rivette’s Around a Small Mountain, photographed by Irina Lubtchansky.

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