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Tokyo Sonata is strange and sadly wonderful

Posted at 10:33 AM on May 15, 2009 by Euan Kerr

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Tokyo Sonata" is a movie for the times. It follows the disintegration of a family after the father and main breadwinner loses his job as an administrator at a big company which is outsourcing jobs to China.

The father, Ryuhei Sasaki, descends into a deep funk, while refusing to tell his family he's unemployed. He leaves for work every day, then sits in a park with other unemployed executives who also cannot face telling their families the truth.

The other members of the Sasaki family, the wife and two sons know something is wrong, but put it down to the parents troubled marriage. Each begins to secretly go their separate ways.

As the family splinters so does the film. It's part dark comedy, part Shakespearean tragedy, and all social commentary. As each individual story spins out, it's sometimes a shock to suddenly be back on one of the other story lines.

Yet somehow is all works. this is a particularly Japanese tale, but it resonates to any culture where the challenges of family dysfunction are magnified by economic collapse.

May 2009
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