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Posts Tagged ‘Hirokazu Koreeda’

The “family” at the center of “Shoplifters”

“SHOPLIFTERS” My rating: B+

121 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A study of an unconventional family and a stinging indictment of the modern Japanese economy, “Shoplifters” sneaks up quietly and leaves you heartbroken.

In the very first scene writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda (“After the Storm,” “Our Little Sister”) displays the film’s title in action. A father and son duo — Osamu (Lily Franky) and Shota (Jyo Kairi) — are cruising a grocery store. They appear absolutely unremarkable…Dad picks up various items, reads the labels; the curious  kid explores the place.

Thing is, little Shota is stuffing his clothing with that evening’s meal.  The pair return to their home — a rundown house overflowing with all manner of junk — and we meet the rest of the family:  Mom Nobuyo (Ando Sakura), big sister Aki (Matsuoka Mayu) and Grandma (Kiki Kirin).

Given the sticky-fingered antics of the opening scene, one might assume that this is nothing more than a family of crooks. But both Hirokazu and Nobuyo have backbreaking jobs that never pay enough to make ends meet.  The teenage Aki is a sex worker employed by a peep show.  Grandma contributes her monthly pension check.

The Japanese labor scene, evidently, pretty much guarantees that each day a working stiff is a bit poorer than the day before. Thus the petty crime.

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our little“OUR LITTLE SISTER” My rating: A-

128 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

“If God can’t figure things out then we’ll have to,” says one of the four Koda siblings whose day-to-day lives are limned in Hirokazu Koreeda’s “Our Little Sister.”

Surely the most profound film ever based on a  graphic novel, “Our Little Sister” is a quiet revelation, a movie of seemingly insignificant moments that add up to an emotionally gripping, transcendent statement about fate and family.

Koreeda’s film (an adaptation of Akimi Yoshida’s celebrated manga) begins with the three Koda sisters — Sachi (Haruka Ayase), Yoshino (Masami Nagasaki) and Chika (Kaho) — learning of the death of their father. They are indifferent. He abandoned his marriage and his daughters years before to take up with one woman, and has since been married to yet another.

But out of a sense of obligation the three young women travel to a distant town to attend the funeral. There they meet Suza (Suza Hirose), their adolescent half sister who was the child of her father’s earlier relationship.

Sachi, the oldest and de facto leader, impulsively asks if Suzu wants to come live with them.  The girl agrees, and suddenly they are a family of four women.

“Our Little Sister” isn’t heavily plotted. In some way it resembles Ang Lee’s “Eat Drink Man Woman,” though Koreeda’s film is virtually melodrama free. Its major attractions are the characters, presented with subtlety and depth, their personalities unfolding slowly.

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