Sunday, October 5, 2008

"The Family Game" (1983, Dir: Yoshimitsu Morita)

A scathing indictment of the lifelessness of the 1980s Japanese middle class, film tries to explore story with an absurdist touch but sometimes overdoes it, becoming weird for the sake of weird.

A four-person family living in a tiny Tokyo apartment hire a tutor to remedy the youngest son's failing grades. The tutor's unconventional approach makes a change in the lives of all four family members.

The best scenes come near the end - a family dinner with the tutor that dissolves into a food fight, and a chillingly ambiguous ending that symbolizes the family's return to their original routine.

Performances are good all around. Yusaku Matsuda is a hoot as the tutor, bringing both humor and a hard gravitas to the role. Saori Yuki is quietly touching as the mother. Legendary director Juzo Itami as the dad, Ichirota Miyagawa as the younger son and Junichi Tsujita as the older son acquit themselves well, even if they don't make a huge impression. The surreal direction sometimes takes a swerve into OTT territory, but "The Family Game" is still worth a look.

The subtitles on the copy I watched weren't especially well-translated, so if you're getting this from Netflix, be aware.

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