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TOKYO SONATA ~What The Real Choice Is~ (1)

Back in Mexico City after several months abroad and three long and exhausting flights, trying to recover myself from the jet lag during a sleepless night, out of nostalgia from Japan, l decided to watch a DVD l had brought from Hong Kong, ‘Tokyo Sonata’, one of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s last films.

I was enthralled by the art and the message conveyed by Kurosawa san, a director of modern Japanese cinema much admired among French and British film critics. ‘Tokyo Sonata’ happens to be a family drama, on the surface quite different from his metaphysical or horror previous thrillers, but here the conventional plot gradually turns into a metaphor about the hard times and the transits we all are living, it provides a glimpse of the purpose of mankind throughout this period.

‘Tokyo Sonata’ weaves its themes associating family structure with the struggle between traditional and modern values, very much like Ozu did with Tokyo monogatari, more than half a century ago, during the postwar years; the family of this movie becomes the field where the social, economical and political transformations of our time have an impact at the personal level. We can observe Pluto in Capricorn transforming the basic structure in all these areas.

The story is relatively simple. A well paid salary man is suddenly sacked from his job but he conceals the situation from his wife and his two sons, an adolescent and a twelve years old boy who is soon to enter junior high. Pretending nothing happens, Ryuhei (Teruyuki Kagawa) keeps going out every morning to his office; he eventually finds a job as a cleaning worker in a commercial center, but one day his wife bumps into him. As for her (Kyoko Koizumi), leading the life of a perfect housewife, she is having a tough time herself, alone, neglected and frustrated. One day, a homeless (Koji Kakusho) breaks in the house and kidnaps her, after a tragic event, she goes back home.The eldest son, Takeshi (Yu Koyanagi) decides to join the American Army and leaves home; the youngest, Kenji (Kai Inowaki) starts taking up piano lessons, in secrete, because his father forbids him to study music.

With these four characters, Kurosawa san composes a real sonata merging cinema into music. He achieves this in various levels. He shows the different temperaments of the family members; the father is a serious and a stern man, the mother sweet and protective, the first son, too detached from the family; the youngest brilliant and intense. Each one of the four main characters undergoes a severe turmoil in his or her own life at different stages.

The action in the movie also follows the structure of a classical sonata in four movements; first comes the exposition, the father losing his job which, we meet every member of the family; the second movement is a sort of adagio revealing a grim social situation where many salary men are losing their jobs and are afraid of losing face both in their own families and in society; the third movement is when then we see the almost total annihilation of the family nest, each character undergoes his or her own ordeal, goes into total darkness; eventually there is a reconciliation of the themes, not in a typical Hollywood happy ending but in a mostly poetical albeit realistic way.

Capricorn and Saturn, its ruler, are concerned with authority, responsibility, prestige, achievement, support and structure, all this in order to sustain life in the safest way. Pluto in Saturn’s sign, as we have been mentioning for the last two years, is transforming all these aspects of reality, those structures or elements of it that cannot be renewed have to be demolished. We have already witnessed the financial crisis, the global epidemics, powerful companies like JAL collapsing, or earthquakes with devastating consequences like the one in Haiti, among many other events. No wonder the House of Government in Haiti, a country of extreme poverty and corruption, collapsed; in spite of the pain and suffering, there is now an opportunity for total rebirth.

At the beginning, in ‘Tokyo Sonata’ the image of authority is stiff and radical, Ryuheisan assumes being unfairly dismissed from the company without any sort of complain. He is adamant against his two sons’ demands because he is an intolerant father himself. He is crushed by authority but he is unable to understand what is going on his family, he shatters Kenji’s (the youngest son) artistic aspirations without even trying to understand him, neither can he react about his wife’s emotional needs.

Surely, the director of this film is not against authority, he is only illustrating how a traditional system of power and domination can become obsolete, unable to respond to its own people’s crisis and requirements. This is true not only for Japan but for the whole world, the writer of the original story is a Westerner, Max Mannix; Kiyoshi Kurosawa wrote the screenplay according to his own vision, both Japanese and universal.

To be continued...

In Japanese

by xavier_astro | 2010-03-01 00:50 | 映画  

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