Like a bottled message cast from the shores of an economy whose implosion precipitated our own, Kiyoshi Kurosawas Tôkyô Sonata centers on Ryûhei (Teruyuki Kagawa), a 46-year-old middle manager for a health-care equipment company who learns that his entire department is being outsourced to China. Like this similarly downsized businessman of Laurent Cantets Time Out, Ryûhei guards the news from his wife, Megumi (the excellent Kyôko Koizumi), continuing to don his suit and tie for a daily triathlon of dead-end job interviews, soup-kitchen lunches, and afternoons whiled away at a public library. Meanwhile, Ryûheis youngest son, Kenji, a bright-eyed sixth-grader, pockets his lunch money to pay for the piano lessons to which his dad has firmly said no, and, in a further affront to Ryûheis already fragile masculine authority, eldest son Takashi calmly announces that hes joining the U.S. military. Like that most revered of Japanese directors, Yasujiro Ozu, Kurosawa (whos best known for his series of supernatural horror films) here uses the microcosm of family to reflect a changing Japanese societyone that he sees staggering awkwardly into the 21st century, weighed down by faltering notions of tradition and a profound lack of internal communication. Fittingly, when hope arrives, it does so guised in chaos, and we, like the characters on screen, perk up our heads to glimpse it.
March 27-April 2, 2009