A family with a talented, potentially gay son is the focus of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata (now playing in NYC and opening March 27 in LA). Not to be confused with the current Tokyo!, this is the winner of the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. It is a drama with quirky comedic touches set in Japan’s largest city.
The film stars Teruyuki Kagawa (who is also in Tokyo!) as the suddenly unemployed head of the increasingly fragmented, contemporary Sasaki family. Unable to admit the loss of his job to his wife and two sons, he goes through the motions of dressing for work each day, only to spend his time at a local park populated by homeless people and other professionally-attired but jobless men.
The Sasakis’ youngest son, Kenji (Kai Inowaki), is a musical prodigy whose father refuses to let him take piano lessons. Kenji secretly begins doing so anyway, paying for them with his school lunch money. In his rebelliousness and refusal to let his father or anyone else limit his potential, Kenji may strike GLBT viewers as a gay youth on the verge of coming out. He is also excessively protective of his male best friend, further piquing my suspicions.
Extremely well-directed by Kurosawa — who is perhaps best known in the US for his odd but haunting 2002 film, Bright Future — Tokyo Sonata is well worth seeing and, at its musical climax, hearing.
UPDATE: Tokyo Sonata is now available on DVD from Amazon.com.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.