Tokyo Sonata

This one's gonna be a tough one to market because it doesn't fit neatly into any specific genre...
  • Drama
  • Comedy
  • Political/Economic Commentary
  • Musical
  • Tragedy

We start out in corporate Japan, kind of like the atmosphere in "Shall We Dansu?" - 1996, with a mid-level executive in a business suit living a stable, comfortable life, commuting to a modern office. We are certain it won't last, given the recent economic turmoil in Japan, but little do we know how far things will stray.

When he is downsized, there is no way our hero will admit this total loss of face to his family, so he continues to leave for "work" each morning, carrying his briefcase, much like Tom Wilkinson's character in "The Full Monty." He finds his fruitless job search to be more and more demeaning every day. Sadly, he is only one of a throng of men who find themselves in an identical situation; we even become acquainted with some of them. His stoic bearing up under the increasing strain made me think of the stalwart hero of "Twilight Samurai."

His older son Takashi, has been passing out pamphlets on the street, albeit not very successfully, so he has secretly decided to join the US military in order to get away from home and earn a living. The problem is, he's under age, so he needs a parent's signature to enlist. By the way, this is artistic license, there is no such program for Japanese men to serve in the US military.

The younger boy Kenji, is a musical genius but Dad forbids piano playing, so Kenji secretly uses his lunch money for lessons. The histrionics displayed during those parent/child confrontations made me think I was in an Akira Kurosawa film.

Mom is the hard-working mother, maid, nanny, babysitter and generally the chief cook and bottle-washer in this household of helpless males. Mom is secretly wishing she would wake up and discover this has all been a dream. Her own dramatic turn of events actually would be very funny, if it wasn't so scary and sad...

There are some very, very funny intervals, along with some poignant ones. On the other hand, this is the only film I have attended recently where I was able to hear Debussy's wonderful "Clair de Lune" in its entirety. And THAT'S worth a LOT!