Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Suzuki Kyoka, Odagiri Joe
Director: Yoichi Sai (aka: Choi Yang-Il)
Studio: Cine Hue (Korea)
About This DVD
Played by Takeshi Kitano, in the finest performance of a long career, Shunpei comes to Osaka in 1920 from the island of Cheju in present-day South Korea and by dint of hard work and sheer determination rises out of poverty. Then, in the chaotic early days after World War II, he becomes a successful businessman, family patriarch and a leader in the Korean community.
But this seeming role model brutally rapes his estranged wife (Kyoka Suzuki) in the film's opening scene -- and this is only the first of many outrages and crimes against family, subordinates, lovers and strangers. The usual defenses -- that he has been twisted by social forces beyond his control, that he is only replying in kind to prejudice and hardship -- don't wash. Shunpei is not just another poor immigrant struggling to make his way, but a malevolent embodiment of the will to power, who regards human feelings as weaknesses to be ruthlessly crushed. His every whim must be satisfied, his every word obeyed. He is the father, boss and husband as an absolute master, who knows nothing of limits or mercy.
Based on a novel of the same title by Osaka native Sogiru Yan, who also wrote the book for Sai's award-winning "Tsuki wa Dotchi ni Deteiru (All Under the Moon)" (1993), "Chi to Hone" follows Shunpei's life for nearly six decades -- from his early days in Osaka making kamaboko (fish-paste rolls) in a small workshop and wooing, if that is the correct word, his future wife, who is running a bar and raising a daughter, Harumi.
She bears him a son, Masao (Hirofumi Arai), and daughter, Hanako (Chieko Tabata), but Shunpei can take no pleasure in his family. Drunk, he beats his wife and children and destroys the furniture. Then Harumi (Mihoko Suino) marries Shunpei's most loyal (and thus long-suffering) man, Nobuyoshi (Shigemori Matsu), and Shunpei's kamaboko business begins to grow. Happy now? Not a chance. If anything, prosperity makes him even more of a tyrant.
Then a gangsterish son (Joe Odagiri) from a brief erotic encounter on Cheju shows up out of the blue -- and demands payback. He gets it -- but not in the form he was expecting. Not long after, Shunpei installs his young lover, Kiyoko (Yuko Nakamura), in a nearby house -- and carries on with her at all hours while his wife writhes with embarrassment and rage. Meanwhile, he invests his earnings in a loan-sharking business, while sparing only crumbs for his family.
The list of these and other offenses against common decency -- and common sense -- grows long over the years, as he alienates everyone around him save Kiyoko, who has become a human vegetable under his ministrations -- and is the only thing he cares for. Then he ages, weakens and the day of retribution finally comes.
As a director, Sai has often indulged a sense of humor that ranges from the dryly ironic to the slapsticky grotesque, but in "Chi to Hone" he wipes off the smile entirely. Instead, he views his hero and his acts with an objectivity both unrelenting and absolute. There is nothing chilling in this gaze -- Sai is too much the humanist to take Imamura's bugs-under-the-microscope view of his characters -- but there is nothing sentimental either.
Also, as an ethnic Korean who has lived in Japan all his 55 years, Sai knows his people and their milieu thoroughly -- and spares the audience nothing. Instead of the usual pretense in Japanese films that even the hardest case will be forgiven because he is Father (or Japanese, or human), Sai tells the plain truth: Actions have consequences -- and human beings create their own solitary hells.
In Shunpei, Kitano has found the role he was born for -- or perhaps raised for. As he has described in his autobiographical writings, his own father was a violent drunk -- though Kitano titled one of his films, "Kikujiro no Natsu," in his memory. He perfectly expresses not only Shunpei's violence, but his clenched inner core. He can love, but only what he has destroyed. He has passion, but only for his own needs and desires.
|Audio Format:||DD 5.1 Surround, DTS|
|Video Format:||Widescreen 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)|
|Subtitles:||Japanese & Korean only|
|Running Time:||144 / 95|
|Special Features:||All supplements have
- TV Spot
- Making of Film (42min)
- Interviews of Actors (26min)
- Closeup 80-day Documentary (20min)
- Premier (6min)
|Availability:||Usually ships in 5-10 days|