Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hirokazu Kore-eda's latest, AFTER THE STORM, opens in New York via Film Movement

For those of us who love the work of Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, the chance to see another of his graceful, beautiful explorations of family connection and growth will not go unattended. In the last couple of Hirokazu's films that TrustMovies has seen, however --  Our Little Sister and his latest, AFTER THE STORM -- it seems to me that the slow pace is slackening even further, while any surprise has gone almost completely missing. While these elements might be deal-breakers for some movie-makers, where Hirokazu is concerned, they don't matter so much. This is due to the rich, human detail he always provides regarding his main characters. You come away from his films steeped in the many individual idiosyncrasies of character, as well as a greater understanding and appreciation of the culture at large.

There is also a grand sense of kindness experienced here, both from the individuals shown and via directorial intent. This is not to say that the people we meet are all good and sweet all the time. Hardly. Our main character here, Dad, played Hiroshi Abe (below, of Hirokazu's I Wish and Still Walking), is a novelist with writer's block who now works as a sleazy private detective, catching husbands or wives in extra-marital affairs to pay his bills (which he rarely seems able to pay, in any case). He is also not above selling out his client, if he can make some extra money off the spouse. Yeah: nice.

This guy also loves to gamble, much to the consternation of his ex and his mother, each of whom is brought to lovely life respectively by Yôko Maki (shown below, of Like Father, Like Son) and Kirin Kiki (of Sweet Bean), shown further below. Both actresses bring such truth and concern to their characters that they help keep the movie on track, given Dad's consistently bad behavior.

In fact, the movie threatens to go off the track, due to Dad, who seems so unable to change, learn or grow in a better direction that, given what you know from Kirokakzu's other films, his "turnaround" is simply going to be unbelievable: too much too late. Stick with After the Storm, though, because the filmmaker manages, as usual, to give us growth in such tiny but smart increments that we not only buy it, we finally revel in it.

There is one scene in particular, in which the poignancy of a failed marriage that both participants -- plus offspring and older generation --want to see repaired is captured with such beauty, sadness and delicacy that, all on its own, it makes the movie worth seeing.

Hirozaku is also finely attuned to the manner in which that apple never falls far from its tree (we learn quite a lot about the recently deceased grandfather, too). Yet in this filmmaker's world, both apple and tree are decidedly mixed bags -- plenty of negatives but some redeeming positives in the mix -- from which Dad's young son (a very good performance by a young actor, above, left, whose name I am not certain of) will also grow and change.

The film is firmly anchored by the excellent performance from Mr. Hiroshi (above and below), a tall, rangy, immensely sexy actor with charisma to spare. Watching him repeatedly fuck up and then try to make up for this, will keep you alternately annoyed and hopeful, desolate and delighted. He is a pleasure to watch in action or repose -- as is, finally, the movie itself.

From Film Movement and running a lengthy but packed-with-detail 117 minutes, After the Storm opens this Friday, March 17, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the IFC Center, Here in South Florida, it opens on Friday, April 7, at the Living Room Theaters, Boca Raton; the Tower Theater, Miami; and at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. To see all currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters listed, click here and scroll down.

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