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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
I am buying this because I saw it at the cinema a few months ago, and haven't been able to get it out of my head since. I've seen other films by this director, who until now specialized in suspenseful, eerie "horror" films (although they were more unsettling really). This film has some of the same atmosphere of oppression, as the main character loses his job, and with it, his hope and his semblance of a normal life. The parody of a life that he leads to try to pretend everything is ok, has moments of wonderful humour amidst the oppressive hopelessness, especially when he meets someone else in the same situation.

Slowly, Ryuhei's life and those of his family unravel and reach breaking point. And around them, others in a similar position give up and succumb to fate. But throughout the rather depressing main plot, it is the little things that offer relief - moments of humour, a tiny bit of hope, and piano lessons. Somehow, the characters carry on. And then, things take a bizarre twist, when a similarly hopeless thief turns up.

This reminds me of the director's earlier film "Kourei", which, whilst being a ghost story, somehow spends more time reflecting on the relationship of a quiet middle-aged couple, as they come to accept that the dreams of their youth will never now come true. In this film, the couple are the central figures, who must both separately go off and find themselves by undertaking a journey that takes them far beyond their normal life. And the director draws the film to a close with the youngest son playing the piano, we are finally able to hear him for ourselves, and it seems to underline the conclusion to the film.

I highly recommend this film. But it is very understated, there is very little high drama, and all the tension is under the surface, in a way that is very Japanese.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
After losing his job as admin director for a large corporation, Ryûhei realises that he's not likely to get a similar job, and certainly not one with the same salary. It seems that the city is full of unemployed suited types desperately trying to give the impression that they are succesfully in work in an attempt to maintain dignity. As Ryûhei walks the streets and queues up for food hand-outs the the film brings us subtle scenes of dark humour, wherever he kills time in the city there are plenty of other jobless well dressed men milling about.

He meets an old friend in a similar situation, he provides something of a masterclass in how to convince those around you, including family, that you're still in work. For all the humour in his eccentric habits it is he who eventually provides the most sobering reminder of the stress caused by unemployment. It's clear that the unemployed men in the film are suffering from a lack of self confidence, they simply can't face up to the fact that they can't provide for their families on the level they have become accustomed to.

Ryûhei's family are seemingly unaware of his situation and between scenes of watching him killing time we get to experience snippets from their lives. Each of their stories are just as interesting as the father's and are initially charming moments which become more involved.

When you start to think that the mother of the house is being somewhat overlooked by the film she then gets to steal the final scenes. Her devotion to the family and the way she represents the true strength underpinning the web of relationships in the house is clarified in a tense and dramatic series of events, we also see her not just as a mum and wife - but as a woman with her own aspirations, dreams and regrets.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is known for writing/directing horror films, and his background appears to have helped him get across the anxieties of the characters involved in Tokyo Sonata and build tension. The begins starts with a beautifully crafted look into an underworld of the socially disenfranchised and is full of well observed and understated comic moments which also capture the sadness of their plight. Although this does continue throughout the film it's never as strong as or as cleverly done as it is at the start and the film dips at times. Thankfully the human story behind the family are strong and compell you to watch and see what happens to them.

In a nutshell: A quirky film which balances despondency, humour, and kitchen sink drama.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2010
If you want a brlliant two hour long study of modern-day urban life in Japan, look no further. You need to be patient with this one, but the tension mounts slow but sure. Really a memorable film that I would recommend to any intelligent viewer with a dark sense of humour. The essence of the story will stay with you for some time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
`Tokyo Sonata' is a very understated, yet strangely moving film.

It is gentle and slightly sad and follows a Japanese family, which includes an undervalued wife, a proud husband who loses his job but goes out each day as if he still has one and hides it from family and a son who is desperate to lean piano despite having to secretly use his lunch money to pay for lessons.

In a very bare and pared back style you experience their dreams and failures and the inner turmoil behind their everyday lives. In the main this film has no obvious musical soundtrack to augment the scenes which makes it feel more stark and sad somehow. This contrasts powerfully with the few scenes with piano playing which make these scenes soar and resonate that much more strongly than they normally would.

Everyone acts extremely well and the direction draws out every detail and nuance in the various scenes. Japanese film are noted for their attention to detail and the small touches that show a deeper meaning and this film is no exception.

I was unsure what to expect from this film and whilst it is slow paced and doesn't spell out every emotion or feeling (like many American films tend to do) this is immensely satisfying and leaves you feeling uplifted and calm at the same time. If you are fond of world cinema or Japanese films in general then you really must check this out at some point.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I am buying this because I saw it at the cinema a few months ago, and haven't been able to get it out of my head since. I've seen other films by this director, who until now specialized in suspenseful, eerie "horror" films (although they were more unsettling really). This film has some of the same atmosphere of oppression, as the main character loses his job, and with it, his hope and his semblance of a normal life. The parody of a life that he leads to try to pretend everything is ok, has moments of wonderful humour amidst the oppressive hopelessness, especially when he meets someone else in the same situation.

Slowly, Ryuhei's life and those of his family unravel and reach breaking point. And around them, others in a similar position give up and succumb to fate. But throughout the rather depressing main plot, it is the little things that offer relief - moments of humour, a tiny bit of hope, and piano lessons. Somehow, the characters carry on. And then, things take a bizarre twist, when a similarly hopeless thief turns up.

This reminds me of the director's earlier film "Kourei", which, whilst being a ghost story, somehow spends more time reflecting on the relationship of a quiet middle-aged couple, as they come to accept that the dreams of their youth will never now come true. In this film, the couple are the central figures, who must both separately go off and find themselves by undertaking a journey that takes them far beyond their normal life. And the director draws the film to a close with the youngest son playing the piano, we are finally able to hear him for ourselves, and it seems to underline the conclusion to the film.

I highly recommend this film. But it is very understated, there is very little high drama, and all the tension is under the surface, in a way that is very Japanese.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2009
Kiyoshi Kurosawa has succeeded as did Chaplin some seventy odd years earlier with Modern Times and De Sica with Bicycle Thieves some time later. What struck me was the stark realism of this film's portrayal of unemployment: the denial, the despair, the degradation, the long line-ups, the lying and the abuse. Also, the actors - especially the one who portrayed the youngest son - were all first rate. I encourage anyone interested in serious cinema to buy this product! MoC, you've done it again!
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on 24 February 2012
'' How wonderful it would be if my whole life so far turns out to have been a dream and suddenly I wake up and I'm someone else entirely.'' .... Spoken so softly and gently (by the wife) that it is poetic. This sentence underlies all the unspoken moments in the film. There are so many important moments that are avoided, denied and unspoken by this family and leads the viewer to think about the unacknowledged moments in their own lives. I don't know if this is a reflection of society or a prediction of what is to come but it is not a pretty sight and there is very little in the form of redemption here. This is a film that examines emotional and physical breakdown, that many of us will experience throughout our lives, and the possibilities to start again. Of course there are those who choose not to start again looks at the often grim options available to them.

The blu ray transfer is ok. It is grainy and lacking any vibrant colours but this is after all not a 'happy' film and was probably filmed this way for effect. The sound is 2.1 and that is ok as 99% of the film is made of dialogue only. It comes with a DVD version, a DVD extras disc and a Blu Ray version plus a nice little booklet about the film.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 6 October 2009
A film of such excellence that it is hard to put it into words.That if you do it will be erased.This is the
film as a form of music,using discordant layers and unsettling cinematography to arrive at un underlying harmony in the universe.All the characters are on a sinking ship and the lifeboats are gone..we know its hopeless,yet still we are looking for an exit.I think the use of framing devices of windows,doorways,stairways, bridges and flyovers creates a sense of unease and suggestiveness.There are many multiple movements that form a whole yet each remains distinct.We are in a world of predictable routines of such constraint that the director utilizes surrealistic distortions and narrative release to attain a sense of renewal.For such depressing material of redundancy and family dysfunction we get a sense of hope through questioning social roles that petrify our impulses.Megumi the housewife and family homemaker says in a half-sleep:" someone,please help me up".Later the locksmith turned thief(Yakusho)kidnaps her ,forcing her to drive him to the coast where they see a light over the sea.I think it's meant to be kind of a metaphor for how the mother possesses the strength of will to not give up. She hasn't lost hope in life whereas the burglar clearly has. This scene & the one following, where she sees the light hanging above the sea, are hard to make sense of on any level other than a metaphorical/allegorical one. Kurosawa clearly isn't interested in explaining it away as an airliner or a ship or whatever. Even the scene where she's staggering - zombie-like - along the beach & the her face suddenly begins to glow has that same aspect to it. Yes, on one level of course it's just the sun coming up, but the way it's staged gives the shot that same quality.The dvd has 2 discsone with extras interviewing the cast,the making of the film,trailers,the Cannes celebration.The film is aexcellent translation into a print of sepia quality and somber colours.A modern Antonionni crossed with Ozu.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Excellent film. I just wanted to add a 5 star rating, the others have said it all.
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on 8 February 2014
THIS IS A PERFECT SAMPLE FOR KNOWING KIYOSHI'S STYLE AND STORYTELLING FORM. I'M SO GLAD MOC CHOSE TOKYO SONATA TO RELEASE IN BLURAY FORMAT, AND IT'S A WONDERFUL CHOICE TO DO SO.
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