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LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Kore-eda Hirokazu (Jun/6, 1962,Tokyo, time unknown) is one of my favourite Japanese directors; taken from the perspective of Western audiences and critics, he has reinvented Japanese cinema. His films are solidly rooted on the tradition of Japanese cinema masters, but he projects the art of Ozu and Mizoguchi into a new horizon. Koreedas stories involve themes and paradoxes that address contemporary audiences’ preoccupations: family traditions versus modern ways of life, or the essential values of life versus power and status, not only in Japan but in any modern society.



I was lucky enough to arrive in Hong Kong the moment ‘Like Father, Like Son’ was on the big screen; and very lucky when I learned that this film was being shown at the Autumn Film Festival in Mexico City, so I could immediately write my weekly article for the Mexican magazine about this movie. Now I cannot miss the opportunity to share my feelings and ideas about this movie with my Japanese friends.

Moreover, the theme of the story (two married couples discovering that the child they have been raising had been switched at the hospital) is associated to one of the topics we explored this last Autumn’s workshop: the process of identity and creativity in childhood according to DW Winnicott’s theories.

‘Like Father, Like Son’ was awarded this year in Cannes; now, Steven Spielberg, who was the president of the jury, is preparing an American remake of the movie. Good news for Koreeda because Hollywood pays lots of money for that; bad news for me because Spielberg will go mainly for the complications of the situation, the sentimental journey of each member of the family, plus the unavoidable Happy Ending. This means that in the USA and countries like Mexico where Hollywood is very influential, the Japanese version might remain almost unknown for most audiences around the world.

The fact is that Koreeda does not care very much with the twists and surprises in the plot; his main purpose is rather to explore the emotional process of his characters and their gradual awareness about the meaning of life. And this, for Koreeda, does not happen through extraordinary adventures but through simple but significant events. In his 1998 film, ‘After Life’, for example, the characters have to choose only one memory they can take with them for eternity; and this memory is not the most exciting one, but the most significant, even if it is a banal one such as sitting on a bench with a beloved person.

Although life sustains itself on its own energy, it needs a firm support to direct its potential; a tree, like a child, will do its best to survive, but things can go terribly wrong is the foundations are missing. Such is the case with the abandoned children in ‘Nobody Knows’.
In ‘Like Father Like Son’, the child of each family has a solid father image and a love and caring mother; but the problem with the Nonomiya family is that Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama, b. February/6, 1969 in Nagasaki), the father, is not really in contact, emotionally, with his son. Keita Nonomiya is growing up trying only to please his father; this six year old boy knows instinctively that he has to live his life fulfilling his father’s expectations. Such a situation provokes enormous anxiety in a child. Keita, therefore, is on the edge of rooting his sense of identity on a false self; luckily, for him, he will meet his real father.

As a Gemini, Koreeda deals with the theme of pairs of opposites, two families, two fathers, two sons, and a cross situation (exchange of babies), like a virtuoso. And in order to produce a dramatic effect, he makes them opposites; thus, Nonomiya san is a successful architect while Saiki san (Lily Frank, b. Nov/4, 1963 (in Tokyo?)) is a laid back fellow who runs a shop. Nonomiya, elegant, competitive and obsessed with his work and success; Saiki does not seem to care about achievement but about the substance of life, he knows that the most important thing a father can teach a son is how to relate to real life. And most important, Saiki san knows that what a child needs in order to be himself is playing; exactly what DW Winnicott recommends for the healthy development of a human being.

An important question that this film arises, but does not answer directly, is if blood is more important than education in the development of a human being. When Ryota san learns that the Keita is not his biological son, he utters that at last everything makes sense. This means, for him, that little Keita was not ambitious and competitive because he was not his real son; but in reality, Ryota is only finding a justification to his incapacity to connect with the child. Ryota eventually understands it; Koreeda shows this with a beautiful panelling of the camera that conveys the tenderness of the situation, when little Ryota rejects talking to his former father. This technique of following a character in a sort of diagonal movement comes directly from Mizoguchi.

We do not know what Ascendant Koreeda has, but we can see that in his chart there is a strong dynamics between a Moon Venus in Cancer and his Sun Mercury in Gemini. This means a tension between his rational mind and his emotional sensitivity. The strain is emphasized by the square between Neptune in Scorpio with Saturn in Aquarius. Jupiter in Pisces transcends all this tension by opening his characters to compassion and contemplation. It is interesting how Koreeda’s retrograde Mercury helps him to find different angles to see and understand reality. Ryota’s compassion is activated when he sees the photos that little Keita has been taking of him, unnoticed. Ryota understand the child when he sees himself from the child’s perspective. And this is what compassion is: to understand people from their own perspective.
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Koreeda Hirokazu
Jun/6,1962
time unknown
in Tokyo

The fact that the singer and composer Masaharu Fukuyama is an Aquarius implies that this actor stands for Koreeda’s Shadow; writer Lily Frank is a Scorpio, another aspect of Koreeda’s Shadow if we think of his Neptune (in Scorpio) squaring his Saturn. These two characters and actors represent the dynamics between the Koreeda’s false self and real self.(the end)
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Masaharu Fukuyama
February/6, 1969
in Nagasaki


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Lily Franky
Nov/4, 1963
in Kitakyushu

In Japanese

by xavier_astro | 2013-12-01 00:00 | 映画  

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