Posts Tagged ‘Isao Yukisada’



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.


PARADE [PAREDO a.k.a. パレード]


JAPAN 2010  Directed & Written by: Isao Yukisada  Novel: Shuichi Yoshida  Cast: Shihori Kanjiya, Karina, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kento Hayashi, Keisoke Koide

Those were the days. The days that seemed endless. The days that had no beginning, and no end. The days that had no purpose. The days that went by just like this. Just like the people we met or lived with.

In between childhood and adulthood is a black hole called “care-free”. Being a student sounds like a tough job (and it is), but preparation for life is not the same as life. We all knew it. It’s the last chance we will ever get to not give a shit about shit. And we did (not). The closer to graduation you get, the harder you play. It could be the last time, right? And later, when you finally got your McJob, you earned your right to not give a shit about shit after work. With a vengeance.

In PARADE most of the people sharing a 2LDK in Tokyo (remember Tsutsumi’s movie – that’s what you become when you actually live in a Japanese 2LDK) are people who live in a parallel universe, or at least have said farewell to reality some time ago. The student who sleeps in all the time, the jobless girl who starts the day with a can of beer waiting for her heart throb actor to call, the lonely artist who ends every night with more than just one can of beer, and the working professional who goes out for jogging in a silver astronaut-look-alike suit, come rain (mostly) or come shine (rarely).

The first time they all wake up from hibernation is when they assume their neighbor is running a brothel in the apartment next door, with top-notch politicians being clients. Outrageous! What the hell is going on there? The second time they get a wake-up call is when severe crimes are committed against women in their neighborhood: a serial criminal is beating up women randomly (beating them to death eventually). The third incident is when they discover that no one seems to know the gay prostitute who sleeps over in their apartment since…when?

Now, it’s not like things instantly change in our 2LDK realm. But people take notice of change. They may even be concerned. Because it means they are forced to face reality. They are forced to care. Which of course has an impact on their routines and prefabricated lifestyles. It sets things in motion. They start to question (or at least think about) what they are doing, or not doing. Their relationships, values, reasons, purpose. All that of course starts to alter the conditions of the fragile community.

If ignorance is bliss, they were the masters. Now they have to master reality. And there’s this little bit of insecurity growing in everyone if the place and time and life they have arranged themselves with is really right. If there is a purpose to life and if it’s time to pursue it. Or maybe not.

Each one of them needs everyone else though. Their relationships may be superficial, but instinctively they understand each other. What’s really funny, or dramatic, or both, about PARADE is that they collectively choose to ignore reality at the end. It shows that everyone needs the group to cling to normality or whatever they’d call it. They even absorb the outsider Satoru finally. And move on.

Life is non-linear, we learn in the beginning. For most people it’s obviously a circle. Life is a state of recurring recurrences. Dents in the perfect circle have to be repaired immediately. Even if it means to cover up a murder.

PARADE is a sarcastic comment on Japan’s next generation of leaders while at the same time it’s a sharp and touching coming-of-age drama. PARADE may very well be one of the best post-recession films. Not that much has changed for Japan since 1997. It’s a long, long slide. Parade is nothing glamorous here. It’s defending your last refuge to the bitter end.