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Kiyoshi Kurosawa comes home with ‘Tokyo Sonata’

Tokyo Sonata
“Tokyo Sonata”

TOKYO (TR) – With a reputation garnered over the past decade as the “Godfather” of the horror genre, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa finds himself settling down with “Tokyo Sonata,” a drama centered around a struggling family and winner of a jury prize in the Un Certain Regard category at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival.

At a press luncheon last week, the 53-year-old director of such thrillers as “Cure” and “Charisma” implored that he was reluctant at first to tackle a plot line focused on the troubles of a family.

“I felt that dramas centered around the home basically had the family unit as the stage with the problems and issues taken up being internal issues,” he said. “But then I realized that I didn’t have to necessarily restrict myself. The family unit could be a place where both internal problems and external problems clash vividly.”

Starring Teruyuki Kagawa (“Serpent’s Path”), pop singer Kyoko Koizumi, and Koji Yakusho (“Cure”), the film tells the story of a family of four whose breadwinner suddenly finds himself unemployed.

Given the lack of apparitions and ghostly imagery, “Tokyo Sonata” is truly a first for Kurosawa. From the selection of a Debussy piano piece (“Clair de Lune”) to the way the film’s colors appear on the screen, Kurosawa wanted the pacing and imagery to give an honest reflection of the mood and atmosphere he was seeking.

“The Tokyo of today is not necessarily the most attractive city in the world,” he said. “It is actually rather dirty and grungy. What we wanted to do was to somehow keep the grubbiness, the realness, the not-so-attractiveness and still make it a beautiful cinematic experience.”

Born in Kobe and a graduate of Rikkyo University, Kurosawa has been no stranger at the Cannes festival — “Charisma” was screened in 1999 and “Cairo” took the International Film Critics award in 2001. This year he felt very pleased to have “Tokyo Sonata” introduced in the Un Certain Regard category, in which he was awarded the second highest prize among the 20 entries.

“The people who came to see the film did not come with a critical eye,” he said. “Rather they came with an open mind and with a felling of wanting to enjoy what they were about to see. In the main competition, people almost come prepared with a negative attitude; they come prepared to find faults with the film; they come prepared to stand up and leave in a huff.”

Kurosawa has a strong admiration for some of Japan’s legendary directors of the past, such as Yasujiro Ozu, whose 1953 film “Tokyo Story” focuses on an elderly couple and their adult children in postwar Japan. Kurosawa admits that given the story line, the scenes, and the film’s title, it is logical to see similarities between the two works. But, he emphasized, he was not imitating Ozu.

“I began with the hope that I would be able to create something very different from Ozu’s films,” he said, “I wanted to create something that was uniquely my own.”

“Tokyo Sonata” opens on September 27th in Japan.