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Tokyo Sonata-DVD Review 01/01/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Asian Film Awards, Cannes Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, Japanese language film, Kinema Junpo Awards, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Movies.
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Tokyo Sonata (Japanese) 2008

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Starring Teruyuki Kagawa, Kyoko Koizumi, Yu Koyanagi, and Kai Inowaki

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Film; Best Screenwriter, Asian Film Awards
WINNER, Un Certain Regard Jury Prize (Kurosawa), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Silver Hugo, Grand Jury Prize (Kurosawa), Chicago International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Actress (Koizumi); Best New Actor (Inowaki), Kinema Junpo Awards

Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is usually known for horror films (which I don’t usually watch), but here he provides his version of modern life in Tokyo. The four members of the Sasaki family deal with problems separately. The father Ryuhei (Kagawa) loses his job but chooses to conceal his loss of honor from his wife and sons when he can’t find suitable employment. Megumi (Koizumi), the wife and mother, appears to be happy performing her domestic duties but feels close to suicide. Older son Takashi (Koyanagi) wants to escape his troubled past by joining the American army. Younger son Kenji (Inowaki) secretly uses his lunch money to take piano lessons against the wishes of his parents.

As we watch the family structure slowly begin to disintegrate, all is not totally bleak, however, and moments of humor do appear. And Kai Inowaki is perfectly suited for the role of the younger son: his piano playing is superb.

120 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Tokyo Sonata

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Still Life-DVD Review*** 03/02/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Asian Film Awards, Durban International Film Festival, Highly recommended, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, Kinema Junpo Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Venice Film Festival.
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Still Life (Chinese) 2006 ***
Sanxia haoren

Written and directed by Zhang Ke Jia
Starring Tao Zhao, Zhou Lan, and Sanming Han

Among other awards:
WINNER, Best Director (Zhang Ke Jia); NOMINATED, Best Composer; Best Film, Asian Film Awards
WINNER, Best Direction (Zhang Ke Jia), Durban International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Silver Ribbon-Best Non-European Director (Zhang Ke Jia), Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists
WINNER, Best Foreign Film; Best Foreign Director (Zhang Ke Jia), Kinema Junpo Awards
WINNER, Best Cinematography (Nelson Yu Lik-Wai); Best Foreign Film (Zhang Ke Jia), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Golden Lion (Zhang Ke Jia), Venice Film Festival

To document the ravaging effects of the Three Gorges Dam project on a town along the Yangtze River in southeast China, director Zhang Ke Jia combines his visual observations with parallel fictional stories of two people separated from their spouses. Sanming has traveled to Fengjie looking for the wife and daughter he hasn’t seen for sixteen years. Shen Hong (Zhou Lan) has come back to visit her husband after two years apart. The stories are punctuated by the pounding of sledge hammers as buildings are destroyed.

The controversial Three Gorges Dam project is one of the largest artificial projects in Chinese history, flooding 60,000 hectares of land; many 2,000-year-old towns, along with the history and culture they contained, are being quickly destroyed. In the process, more than 1,000,000 people must be relocated, with many family members ending up in vastly different parts of the country.

The simplicity and pace of the stories might not appeal to some. I appreciated the opportunity to see what is happening to these towns, villages, and cities. The director’s interview is worthwhile viewing, as it gives a perspective on what he was trying to accomplish and how. The film is separated into four parts: cigarettes, liquor, sweets, and tea. Although the country now has a “market economy,” these are reminders of the “planned economy” projects of the past, when such items were rationed.

Highly recommended.

111 min. Not rated.

For more information about the Three Gorges Dam, click here and here.

For more about the film:
Still Life