JAPAN 2009 Directed by: Isao Yukisada Novel by: Mayumi Nakatani Written by: Chihiro Itou Cinematography: Jun Fukumoto Editing: Tsuyoshi Imai Music: Yoko Kumagai, Hidehiko Urayama Cast: Etsushi Toyokawa, Hiroko Yakushimaru, Asami Mizukawa, Gaku Hamada, Yuu Shirota, haruka Igawa, Renji Ishibashi, Kaoru Okuniki, Kanji Tsuda
Released only shortly before his stellar PARADE (PAREDO), director Isao Yukisada’s A GOOD HUSBAND tells the story of a thirtysomething couple and their struggle to keep up their marriage. Once a star photographer Shunsuke now prefers staying in bed all day long, a student-like slacker life and betraying his wife with other women. His wife Sakura on the other hand is very anxious to get him back on his feet and working. But he insists that he’s got no inspiration to start working again after a one-year hiatus and rather lets his young assistant do some minor assignments on his behalf. As much as things seem to not go anywhere with Shunsuke and Sakura, their past involving a trip to Okinawa to conceive a baby and the next events slowly start a reflection on what has happened between them and why. And very soon a very special kind of divorce will be taking place.
If PARADE was blurred albeit in an odd way, then A GOOD HUSBAND, based on Mayumi Nakatani’s novel, is dreamy. For a good reason, that is. Yukisada once more displays his talent for nuances and the intimacy of the relationships between his characters. On the surface these relationships seem hollow, sometimes cold, often aimless, but Yukisada is a master of reading in between the lines and he reveals a very different side of these relationships if we are just paying close attention. It is likely that many viewers will disregard Yukisada’s films as superficial or trivial. Well they aren’t. They are subtle and in a way as sophisticated as the human psyche.
What makes A GOOD HUSBAND particularly interesting is its form that follows function in a very conceptual way. That is not a bad thing: Yukisada is timing his movie almost entirely like a stage play. Enter, dialogue, exit, next. Maybe halfway into the movie most buffs will have figured out why that is, yet A GOOD HUSBAND remains fascinating until the (more or less) predictable end. The movie certainly takes its time to get to the point and to show most of its characters’ reasons and emotions, but is beautifully photographed and gracefully paced, and rewards the viewer with a liberating finale.
A GOOD HUSBAND, despite not necessarily featuring the most original of stories, is a unique portrait of a failed professional and husband. Equally it’s the touching story of a love lost and found. A GOOD HUSBAND quintessentially transforms the idea of a picture being worth a thousand words into a cinematic concept.
What’s left to say is that A GOOD HUSBAND may not instantly work for everyone and may feel inaccessible at first, but it grows on you if you let it. Let it.
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