Tokyo Sonata (2008) – How To Live a Meaningless Existence and Not Be Overly Bothered

According to both the Romantics and the Moderns, we are all guilty children of a slain father figure. Standing over the corpse of God with blood on our hands and tears in our eyes, we look down upon slain divinity and weep for the way that his touches always made us feel special. Informed by this sense of loss but unsure of how to respond to it, 20th Century literature built upon 19th Century psychological realism by focusing its gaze inwards to the point where the external world seemed to simply fade away. Convinced that god is dead, science is boring and politics is useless, 20th Century writers wrote about themselves and their problems, coaxing thousands of novels and hundreds of films from the unbearable tragedy of being middle class and a little bit unhappy. Unhappiness framed in terms of the disappearance of God and so made to seem important and cosmic rather than irrelevant and self-indulgent. The truth is that we no more morn the death of god than we do the fall of the Roman empire, like most people who lose a parent, we have moved on and now live our lives not in the shadow of a fictional God but in the sunlight of the real world. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata is a film about the ultimate irrelevance of questions of meaning and consolation to the lives of real people.


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Kairo (2001) – Hedgehogs meet the Internet

There is something faintly Proustian about sitting down at a keyboard in order to write about Japanese Horror.  As though biting into a madeleine, I am suddenly transported back to the horrible ICA seating I put up with in order to see Hideo Nakata’s Ring (1998).  I am swamped by memories of girlfriends past, trips to out of the way cinemas, sequels rented on VHS tape and vindictive reviews of terrible American remakes.  It all seems like so long ago and yet it was only the early 00s.  Tempus Fugit.  Sic Transit Gloria Mundi…

Though historically accurate, mentioning Ringu seems somehow inappropriate as,  despite having been a product of the J-Horror bubble (it even earned itself a terrible 2005 American remake), Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo is no mere genre copy-cat.  Clearly influenced by Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972) and Stalker (1979), the film uses genre formulae as a spring-board for exploring philosophical ideas with an almost poetical elegance and softness of touch.  Kairo is, in every way, a remarkable film.

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