The Chicago International Film Festival is a welcome annual arrival, and I’m delighted once again to provide capsule reviews of as many of the films as I can manage to see. All films are shown at the AMC River East Theaters, 322 E. Illinois St. here in the great city of Chicago, Illinois. Part 1 is here. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.
Hirokazu Koreeda (sometimes spelled Kore-eda) has sometimes been compared to the Taiwanese directors Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-Liang, who share a patient, deliberate long-take style of visual narrative. But when it comes to the story and characters, his work most reminds me of the great Eric Rohmer. Now, granted, Rohmer explored love, friendship and the vagaries of couplehood in various guises and situations, while Koreeda almost exclusively concerns himself with family dynamics. But they’re both slyly humorous, both have genuine respect for their charmingly flawed characters, and both use a milieu of unadorned realism to emphasize what’s important about these particular people.
His newest film, After The Storm (Umi Yori Mo Mada Fukaku –海よりもまだ深) (Japan, 2016) carries the same graciousness towards his characters, but, narratively, he doesn’t spare them real grief. Ryota Shinoda (Hiroshi Abe) was once a promising novelist; now he works for a somewhat skeezy detective agency playing unfaithful couples against each other, gambling away most of his earnings, rummaging through Mom’s apartment looking for pawnable possessions of his late father, and consistently failing to come up with child support. Mom and the ex don’t let him get away with any of it, but they also know that he takes after his late father, whom Ryota might have despised more than any of them. His mother, Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki, quite funny), outlasted her lousy husband, and is now healthy and content. Ryota’s ex-wife Kyoko (Yôko Maki) has recently been seeing a wealthy industrialist (Ryota uses job-time to spy on her as well), and she’s determined to move her life along constructively. And, of course, Ryota dotes on his young son Shingo (Taiyô Yoshizawa), who would rather draw walks than hit singles or doubles in little-league baseball.
Each of these characters (as well as Ryota’s sister and his detective-partner) is compellingly presented, and Koreeda even fashions a kind of optimistic suspense out of the proceedings. But he leaves us with no resolved conflicts, no sunny resolutions – only the knowledge that the materials for all of that are right in front of all of their noses, if they so choose. This is a terrific movie, as his last three or four have been (Like Father Like Son, I Wish, Still Walking). He’s a very reliable a filmmaker, almost as much as, oh, maybe even… Eric Rohmer.
After The Storm will be shown on Wednesday, October 19th at 8:15 pm and Thursday, October 20th at 5:45 pm.