Hirokazu Kore-eda


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Born in 1962 in Tokyo, Hirokazu Kore-eda started out directing documentary films.

His debut narrative film, Maboroshi No Hikari (1995), was peculiar in the way it filmed its characters from a distance.

Una vecchia lascia la casa dove era ospite, invano rincorsa da una bambina. Ha deciso di andare a morire al proprio villaggio.

Anni dopo la bambina e` diventata una donna ed e` sposata, con un figlio. Suo marito e` un bravo ragazzo, anche se ruba una bicicletta dopo che sconosciuti gli hanno rubato la sua. Vivono in semplicita` ma felici. Lui lavora in una fabbrica, lei fa la donna di casa. Vivono in un appartamento vicino alla ferrovia e si vedono in continuazione treni che passano.

Un giorno la polizia viene a prendere la donna: suo marito e` stato ucciso da un treno, il corpo e` stato maciullato. Il macchinista sostiene che l'uomo camminava sulle rotaie come se volesse farsi investire.

Una vicina trova il marito ideale per la vedova. E` anche lui vedovo, e ha una bambina. La donna e suo figlio si mettono in viaggio (di nuovo su un treno). Dal quartiere industriale della metropoli passano al paesaggio rurale di un villaggio remoto sul mare. All'inizio i rapporti fra i due coniugi sono freddi e formali, ma presto cominciano a conoscersi e piacersi. Il bambino trova una sorellina con cui giocare. La natura calma e imponente fa da cornice alla ritrovata serenita`. Non c'e` piu` il treno: c'e` il mare. Sembra regnare l'armonia, ma una visita ai genitori crea turbamenti nella donna: e` bastato tornare sul luogo dell'incidente per indurla a pensare. E la donna non sa darsi pace: perche' mai il marito decise di suicidarsi? La donna torna a casa triste e inquieta. Il marito e` impotente. Un giorno la vede seguire ipnotizzata un funerale nella tormenta. La processione si ferma in riva al mare: le nuvole si sono diradate e il tramonto avvolge la figura della donna che rimane sola sulla spiaggia. L'uomo da` la colpa al mare. Il paesaggio maestoso e silenzioso riporta la pace sulla famiglia.

Wandafuru Raifu/ Afterlife (1998) e` un racconto kafkiano su un allegorico laboratorio per ricreare i ricordi dei morti. It is also a philosophical investigation in the nature and value of memory, and what makes life worth living. It may also be a metaphor for cinema itself, since each movie focuses on "one memory" only out of all the possible stories that one could tell about any single protagonist.

Un edificio in mezzo a un parco e` adibito a stazione di passaggio fra la morte e il paradiso. Vi lavora un gruppo di ragazzi, guidati da un maestro. Ciascun ragazzo intervista i morti e spiega loro come funziona la morte: per passare da quel "purgatorio" al paradiso, devono scegliere un ricordo della loro vita e quello sara` l'unico che ricorderanno per il resto dell'eternita`. I ragazzi prima intervistano i morti, poi guardano i filmati e discutono i casi con il maestro. C'e` la prostituta, il pilota, la ballerina, il teppista, l'adolescente stupida, la vecchia che si crede bambina, l'uomo che non vuole ricordare nulla... Una volta che avranno scelto il ricordo preferito, il team di ragazzi dovra` realizzare un filmato di quel ricordo.
I ragazzi compiono pertanto uno studio minuzioso della situazione per ricostruire fedelmente l'ambiente. I ragazzi si immedesimano sempre piu` con i loro casi. Le parti quasi si capovolgono: i ragazzi cominciano a raccontare ai loro pazienti le proprie vite e a confessare loro i ricordi di cui sono ossessionati.
Fra i ragazzi intervistatori c'e` una ragazza che sta facendo da assistente a un ragazzo piu` esperto. Questi, morto giovane in guerra, viene colto da una crisi quando scopre che il suo "caso" e` l'uomo che ha sposato la sua ex fidanzata. Anche lei mori` e la ragazza lo aiuta a recuperare il filmato del ricordo che lei scelse di portare con se` per sempre: e` il ricordo di un loro incontro al parco. Il ragazzo decide che vuole a sua volta passare in paradiso e pertanto e` pronto a scegliere egli stesso l'unico ricordo da portare con se`: e` se` stesso solo sulla panca.
La ragazza prende il suo posto nella burocrazia della stazione. C'e` gia` un altro gruppo di morti che attende di essere intervistato.
If English is your first language and you could translate the Italian text, please contact me.

Distance (2001) is a half-baked character study and an ill-defined analysis of social diseases, that, stylistically, borrows heavily from Blair Witch Project. The director does not seem interested in all in creating and following a plot (which is basically wasted here). His attention is all focused on the process of "believing": how do some ordinary people come to believe in something that changes their lives, and how do other people, who did not experience that "change", come to understand what had happened. It is, ultimately, another meditation on memory and meaning, through the solitary calvary as well as the collective self-flagellation of four individuals. It is the third anniversary of the day when a religious cult killed scores of people with a bacteriological weapon. Four relatives and friends of members of the cult get together and travel to the remote jungle area and to the specific location, a lake, where the ordeal occurred for a memorial. Each of them walks to the end of a little bridge, says a prayer and throws a lily in the water. (The bodies of the cult members were burned and their ashes were scattered in the lake). When they return to their car, they find out that it has been stolen. They meet a former member of the cult who survived and trek with him to the cabin where the cult members used to live. Overnight, in the cabin, the relatives and the former cult member discuss what it was like to be in the cult. A series of flashbacks shows how their friends and relatives, all ordinary people, became members of the cult. The action in the present is filmed with a hand-held camera, whereas the flashbacks employs lengthy shots. In the flashbacks, a man deserts his wife and their baby, a wife leaves her husband, a medical student in a swimming pool a sister Some of the flashbacks show, instead, a police officer interrogating the survivors to make sense of what happened.
In the morning, the stranded group gets a ride back into town. visting the old man, but old man just died - wasn't even his son Masaru one of them shows pictures during a picnic to his girlfriend
One of them walks back to the lake and burns all of his pictures and the bridge itself.

Dare Mo Shiranai/ Nobody Knows (2004) is another austere documentary-style semi-improvisational film that involves four people who live in their own closed fantasy universe. This time the universe is a happy and innocent one, one in which they feel safe. And this time the four protagonists are children who don't know the real world, and suddenly they have to explore it and learn how to cope with it. The film is neatly divided in three parts. At first it merely describes the artificial and precarious paradise in which the children live. Then it descibes their attempt at preserving the paradise once its artificial nature has become undeniable (the mother has left them). The camera now focuses on small insignificant objects that suddenly acquire a much bigger meaning: they replace the mother who is no longer there, because each of them reconstructs a memory of her having existed and cared for the children. Finally, when the equilibrium has been broken, a new "mother" appears to help restore a new kind of equilibrium.
The first part of the movie is about presence: presence of the mother and of the siblings, a presence enhanced by the fact that they are isolated from the rest of the world. The second part is about absence: the mother is gone, the children slowly lose faith in the unity of their family. The third part is about freedom from the mother who used to determine if the state was one of presence or absence. Akira, who has been until then a passive victim of circumstances, suddenly becomes a tragic figure, a victim of destiny.
The three parts also mark a progression from unawareness to dignity to degradation.
The film recasts the themes of loneliness and alienation (explored by filmmakers since the time of Antonioni) into the world of children, the world of collapsing families. Not the victims of industrialization, but the victims of parental selfishness.

A mother, Keiko, and her little boy, Akira, introduce themselves to the new landlord, promising to be quiet tenants. Later the movers deliver their furniture and luggage. Inside two suitcases are two more children, a girl and a boy. Later Akira walks to the station to pick up his sister Kyoto. The mom reminds the children that they have to be silent and not wander outside, otherwise they will have to move yet again. Clearly none of the children goes to school. Akira and Kyoto take care of the younger ones when their mom is at work. When she comes back from work late in the evening, she helps Akira study while Kyoto does laundry for everybody. The family arrangement is unusual, but they live happily together.
One night she talks to them about their fathers: it turns out that they are children of four different men. And she told Akira that she is now dating a new one, and she hopes he will marry her and take care of all of them. One morning Akira finds a note from his mom: she's gone for a while and left him some money. Akira has to take care of the children for one month, begging two of the fathers (or suspected fathers) for additional money. One day he is almost arrested for a misunderstanding at a convenience store, a fact that could have turned into a major tragedy for the other three hidden at home.
The mother comes back bringing presents for everybody. The children are excited. But she leaves again, promising to be back by Christmas. The children stick to their rituals inside the home, still obeying her commands not to go outside. Akira is already aware that there is trouble ahead. He becomes the little Ulysses who has to explore the city to understand how they can survive without any guardian at all.
He pretends that mom sent them presents, but he is the one who bought them. His sister Kyoto saves the money for when she can buy a piano. For little Yuki's birthday the present is a walk outside the apartment, through the streets of the big city that she has rarely seen. They stare at the monorail that runs over their heads and Akira promises that some day they will board it.
Akira makes two friends at a videogame store. They are spoiled, ill behaved and selfish. They steal a toy from a store and invite Akira to do the same. He refuses, puzzled. When he waits for them in front of the high school (that he has never entered), they make fun of his house.
The economic situation is dire. Their bills are unpaid. Kyoto is aware of it and gives Akira the money that she was saving for the piano. The only person to know about them is the cashier of the convenience store, who kindly helps Akira with leftovers. Akira decides that their routine is pointless and takes everybody for a walk outside.
The city suspends their water service, so they have to go outside and get water from drinking fountains at the nearby park. There they meet a melancholy older high-school girl, Saki, who visits them at home and suddenly understands their dire situation. To help, she accepts to entertain a businessman for money. Akira sees it, and, disgusted, throws her money away and runs back home. But their situation is getting worse by the day. And the children are no longer disciplined. They are taking more and more chances going outside.
One day Akira happens to be near a baseball field when one of the teams needs an extra player. He is happy to wear the uniform and play for real. But just then, back at home, Yuki falls from a chair and falls in a coma. Desperate for help, Akira finds the high-school girl and begs for money. He uses the money to buy toys for Yuki, but Yuki dies. Just then they receive an envelop from their mother with, finally, some money.
Akira and the girl put Yuki's corpse into the same suitcase that she arrived in, and take the suitcase on the monorail (Akira's promise comes true but in a cruel fashion). And they bury the suitcase outside the city, near the airport and the sea. She takes his hand that is trembling. They take the monorail again to go back to the city, all dirty from all the digging they have done with their naked hands. The following day Akira and the girl are roaming the streets with Akira's little siblings.

Kiseki/ I Wish (2011), vaguely reminiscent of Ozu's Good Morning (1959), deals with a simple story but the story is wrapped into gentle metaphors (the volcano that does not erupt, the modern trains connecting to the big city, the traditional cake threatened by modernity, etc). When the children speak, it ccasionally feels like a documentary, with sudden cuts and spontaneous childish thoughts. It never turns into fairy tale mode, despite the semi-divine intervention of a granpa and a granma. (The country and blues soundtrack feels oddly out of context).

A child, Koichi, stares at a volcano from his room's window. He thens wipes away the ash from the floor. He lives with his mother and grandparents. At school the teacher sympathyzes with him for being the son of divorced parents. Koichi is still attached to his little brother Ryu, who lives with his father in another town. Koichi's mother works as a supermarket cashier, his father is struggling to make a living as a musician. Koichi hears on tv that a high-speed railway is coming to their region, linking his town with the city where his father and brother live. During a science class Koichi overhears two children whispering that when two bullet trains cross each other any wish can come true. Koichi and his little friends immediately set out to study the map. Koichi begins to wonder if he can elicit the miracle of his parents being reunited. On the way home the trio notice that an old lady waiting at a railway crossing has disappeared when the train passes by. Koichi's grandfather drinks with three elderly friends and they discuss whether a local cake can save the local economy from the competition that will come with the store at the train station when the bullet train starts running in two months time. Grandfather takes Koichi on a ferris wheel and offers his the famous cake. Koichi asks him why volcanos erupt and why people live near them, but he doesn't get a convincing answer. Grandfather has a humble job and supports them all. Ryu reveals his older brother's secret plan to three girls who befriend him, including a girl who wants to become an actress despite her mother advice. When the family reunites for a dinner, however his parents start arguing vioilently. Grandfather keeps testing new recipes of the cake on Joichi and then serving the cake to his three elderly friends. His friends suggest that he dyes it pink to go with the new bullet train, but he refuses to compromise. Schoolchildren wipe out the ashes of the volcano from the grounds of the school. WHen Koichi overhears a child saying that his father got a ticket for the very first run of the bullet train, he decides that his turn has come: he mobilizes his two best friends to find money (e.g. searching for coins dropped under vending machines and selling toys) and to draw up a plan to skip class. The three girls instruct Ryu to phone his brother and volunteer to meet him half way. One day Koichi and his two friends feign illness in class and, thanks to the complicity of the school's nurse and Koichi's grandfather, they are successfully dismissed for the day. Each child has a wish. One of the three wants his dog, who just died, to be resurrected. They board a slow train to a point where the paths of the two fast trains currently cross. Meanwhile Ryu and his three little girlfriends, including the aspiring actress, board a similar train in the city. They all meet in a town that they don't know. When one gets lost, a cop rescues him. Then the others look for him until they find him and the cop. They lie to the cop and the older girl pretends that she's the granddaughter of a local woman. The local woman goes along with the lie and takes in the seven children. They get food, beds, and directions to the buller train rails. It turns out the old woman misses her only daughter. At night Koichi and his brother chat it out while eating granpa's cake. The elderly couple, who had the time of their life nursing the seven children, even give them a ride to the magic point where the two trains speed past each other. They wait and they they all shout their wishes as the train flashes by. Actually, at the last minute Koichi decided not to make any wish, and his brother confesses that he made a different wish. The children take their respective trains back to their respective towns. The girl who aspires to be an actress announces to her sleeping mother that she has decided to move to Tokyo and become an actress. Koichi explains that he chose "the world" over his family. Back home Ryu asks their father what is the world, and his father can't reply. Back home Koichi makes his granpa happy by telling him that Ryu liked his cake. The volcano is still erupting ashes over the town.

Soshite chichi ni naru/ Like Father Like Son (2013) is a melancholy domestic drama/comedy in which Koreeda contrasts two families, and in particular two men, who have different lifestyles and fifferent incomes. There is a sort of doppelganger theme that intersects with class struggle and with a philosophical discussion on fatherhood (amd, this being Japanese society, fatherhood matters more than motherhood). The calm and pensive film rarely turns sensational, except when the mother is asked to separate from the boy she adopted. The light touch and the almost documentary indifference are reminiscent of Ozu although not quite as implacable.

Keita is the smart, well-behaved little child of a wealthy young couple. His father is a businessman who works in a high-rise building. His mother a devoted housewife. They spoil the child a little bit but, altogether, they live a happy life together. Then one day they receive a phone call from the hospital where Keita was born: babies were switched at birth. A DNA test confirms that Keita is not their biological son. They are asked to meet the couple who raised their biological son, Ryusei. The father is a humble and lazy shopkeeper, who is aging faster than he would if he took better care of himself. The mother is a waitress. The couples decide that eventually they will switch children, but the process has to be gradual, so initially each child is sent to stay with the other couple for one day each week. Each couple is clearly attached to each child, either because of blood or because they raised him day by day. Keita's father Ryota, however, has a secret plan. He talks to a friend who is an attorney about keeping custody of both children. After all, he can give either child a better future than the other couple would. The upbringing actually favors the working-class couple: Ryusei's sloppy habits conflict (and occasionally irritate) his biological parents' stiff manners, whereas Keita gladly drops his artificial manners for his biological parents' casual manners. In fact, the lazy working-class father spends more time with the children (both of them) than the busy pretentious Ryota ever did with Keita. When the couples go out together, it is the poor father who wears himself out to play with the children, while Ryota merely watches. Ryota's wife Midori, who feels that he blames her for not having realized she was raising the wrong child, is also unhappy to part with Keita, and not for blood reasons but simply because she loves him, and even toys with the idea of running away with the child. When Ryota finally offers money to buy the custody of both Keita and Ryusei, the other couple is offended: they are poor but there are things that money cannot buy. And this after the poor father has proven over and over again with his behavior that he is a better father. Ryota's own wife is ashamed and forces Ryota to apologize. The two couples are reunited at the trial against the hospital. In court they are surprised by the confession of the young nurse who made the mistake: she did it on purpose because, as a poor struggling working-class mother, she resented the happiness of the rich couple. Ryota's father is ill and summons his two sons. Ryota obeys but he is initially arrogant because he suspects his father simply wants more money from him. His father belongs to the same social class as Ryusei's father. The old man advises Ryota to exchange the boys because, as they get older, Ryusei will behave more and more like Ryota, and Keita more and more like the other father: it is all "in the blood". But Ryota's mother thinks otherwise. Ryota resumes his routine of working till late, even when Ryusei stays with them (which really means that he stays with Ryota's wife). Ryota has also become less tolerant of Keita's weaknesses. Meanwhile the two mothers are getting closer that the two fathers are. Ryota has made up his mind: he tells Keita that he has to move with the other couple and call them "father" and "mother". His wife is heartbroken, but he has not spent every single minute of those six years with the child the way she has. They have different memories. For him it is easier to separate himself from the child for whom he has always been half a stranger. For her it is her entire life that goes away. And she probably also feels that the child is a helpless victim: nobody is asking Keita what he prefers. The two mothers hug each other, as Midori confesses that she can't have any more children and Keita wanted a brother, so maybe Keita will be happier with the other couple (that has two other children). Ryota tries in vain to explain to Ryusei that he has to call him "father": the child keeps asking "why?" His own boss advises Ryota to slow down and spend more time with his family. His wife is amazingly willing to switch sons and start behaving affectionately to Ryusei like she did to Keita. Ryusei is a difficult child, who disobeys all the time. The nurse who caused the problem is willing to pay some damages. Ryota personally walks to her house to return the money. He begins lecturing her on how she destroys his family but is then confronted by her own son, a little boy who seems ready to beat him up. Ryota is unhappy and confused. He calls his parents to apologize for his rude behavior. Ryusei is even more unhappy: he runs away and finds a way to get back to his old house and play with his old parents. When Ryota walks in to pick him up, Keita does not even look at him. It is obvious that the poor father was doing a much better job with Ryusei and is now doing a much better job with Keita. Both children would in fact be happy to live with the poor couple, exactly the opposite of Ryota's original plan. Ryota finally learned his lesson and starts playing with Ryusei like he never did with Keita. But now that he is human he also realizes how much he misses Keita. Ryota and his wife bring back Ryusei to the family the child still misses. Keita, upon seeing them, runs away, resentful that they abandoned him to the other family. Ryota has to follow him for a long way while apologizing over and over again. Finally Keita accepts to hug him again and they walk back together to the store where the other children are waiting. The poor family welcomes the rich couple and they all laugh together. We will never know what they decide to do with the boys.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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