Tokyo Sonata (PG-13) ***½


An extraordinary look at an ordinary family.

Tokyo Sonata
A scene from the movie.

By Carrie Rickey, The Philadelphia Inquirer

In Tokyo Sonata, filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa -- no relation to Akira -- composes an extraordinary work in three movements about the Sasakis, a seemingly ordinary family. In this unpredictable work, the clan implodes, explodes and glues itself back together.

When management at his firm finds it can hire two Chinese workers for the price of one Japanese employee, Mr. Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) loses his job -- and loses face. Rather than swallow his pride and be open with his wife and sons, the salaryman swallows his anger -- and chokes on it.

Sasaki's secret has seismic reverberations for his wife and sons. They, in turn, privately nurse their own secrets. As communication breaks down, so does the strict routine of the household and, ultimately, Sasaki's authority. All of this is expressed in visual compositions compartmentalized as a bento box and in an unsettling use of sound.

When his younger son asks for piano lessons, Sasaki vehemently forbids them. Because he knows that he can't afford them? Because the jobless administrator is threatened by his son's artistic leanings? Because ''no'' is his last vestige of power?

In this film where music is most significant, silence achieves maximum emotional impact. Silence isolates the individual Sasakis more effectively than soundproof booths. In silence, their inner demons are loudest, and silence creates the palpable sense of unease. Then music draws the family back together, calming these agitated souls. Astonishing.

Cast: Teruyuki Kagawa, Kyoko Koizumi.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Screenwriters: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Max Mannix, Sachiko Tanaka.

Producer: Yukie Kito.

Running time: 120 minutes. Violence, mature themes. In Japanese with English subtitles. Playing in Miami-Dade only: Cosford.

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