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Nouveau Cinema: Tokyo Sonata

Sunday 12 October, 7:45 p.m. at Cinema Imperial, and Monday 13 October, 9 p.m. at Cinema du Parc

In a live interview following the North American debut of his 2007 film Tokyo Sonata, director Kiyoshi Kirosawa acknowledged that he is, at heart, a sentimental filmmaker. Those who are familiar with Kirosawa’s gory oeuvre will no doubt have trouble believing this statement. But then again, Tokyo Sonata is something of a departure for the cult-horror director, one that brings his humanist impulses fully to light.

The plot features almost all of the stock themes one would expect from a domestic melodrama: unemployment, a marriage in crisis, infidelity, abuse. But, if the screenplay seems contrived at times, the camera work still has all of the director’s characteristically evocative – and indeed unsettling – cinematographic trademarks. Depictions of the Tokyo skyline, the city’s subway system, and empty night-time side-streets evoke a sense of vague, lurking malevolence, as hard to pin down as it is to ignore. Nevertheless, the film betrays a measure of sympathy for its four embattled protagonists, even as they fall victim to their own egotism, solipsism, and emotional impotence. The movie’s best scene is its final one, which is both conciliatory and quietly heartbreaking.

–Simon Lewsen