Contemporary black comedy
2010, colour, 16:9, 94 mins
Directed by Fukada Koji (深田晃司)
By Derek Elley
Tue, 29 March 2011, 22:04 PM (HKT)
Beautifully calibrated black comedy about a family "invaded" by a stranger. Festivals, plus niche TV.
Tokyo, summer, the present day. Kobayashi Mikio (Yamauchi Kenji) and his young second wife Natsuki (Sugino Kiki) run a small backstreet printing shop, where they also live with Eriko (Ono Eriko), Mikio's young daughter by his first wife Akie (Saito Haruka), and Seiko (Hyodo Kumi), Mikio's sister who recently moved back after her divorce. One day, there drops by a man called Kagawa Hanatoro (Furutachi Kanji), who claims to be the son of Kagawa Ichiro, a friend of Michio's late father who helped him originally set up the business. When Michio's employee Yamaguchi (Nagai Hideki) collapses from overwork, Hanatoro offers to take his place and ends up staying in the family's spare room, claiming he's been evicted from where he was living. Next, Hanatoro moves in a sexy young western woman, dance instructor Annabelle (Bryerly Long), whom he claims is his wife. Annabelle starts taking over Eriko's English lessons from Natsuki and, when Hanatoro mysteriously disappears for a week, also seduces Mikio. When Hanatoro returns, he moves into phase two of his takeover of the Kobayashi family.
A black comedy about a stranger who appears from nowhere and ends up completely taking over the lives of the people that take him in, Hospitalité 歓待 (2010) creeps up on the viewer in the same way as the uninvited guest insinuates himself into the family unit, making it almost impossible to say where the comedy begins. Based on a play by the Seinenden theatre troupe, which writer-director FUKADA Koji 深田晃司 joined in 2005, the movie doesn't aim for any grand moral or religious statements like Pasolini's 1968 classic Theorem — in which a mysterious stranger seduces a whole family and then disappears — and ends up with a very concrete reason for the "invasion". Instead, it has much gentle fun with certain aspects of conventional Japanese society — everyday politesse, sweeping the unspeakable under the carpet, the country's love-hate affair with foreigners — and simply pushes its central idea to the limit and beyond, in a highly civilised comedy of manners that grows organically from the tiniest of beginnings.
The delicious twist is that the family comes to embrace its own invasion without surrendering its own character — which speaks volumes about the country's own historical embrace of things foreign. The stranger, beautifully played by FURUTACHI Kanji 古舘寛治 in an offhand, friendly way rather than as an evil presence, provides moments of liberation that are grasped by all the family. The father gets to sleep with the stranger's sexy "wife" and sees his small printing business thrive; his young second wife is freed from a troubling problem and enjoys her own moment of sexual freedom; and the father's sister loosens up after a painful divorce. Instead of being shown simply as a weakness that's been exploited, the family's "hospitality" turns into a win-win situation all round.
Casting is so well integrated that it's unfair to single out any players for special praise, though the key family role of YAMAUCHI Kenji 山内健司's father is especially well pitched in its mixture of openness and curiosity, and Korean-Japanese actress-producer SUGINO Kiki 杉野希妃 (aka Seo Yeong-hwa 서영화, from LIM Kah Wai 林家威's Magic & Loss マジック＆ロス (2010) and KIM Ki-duk 김기덕 | 金基德's Time 시간 (2006)) is equally good at showing hairline cracks in her mask of the perfect young second wife. American actress Bryerly Long brings a likable innocence to the role of the foreign woman that mirrors Furutachi's own performance as her "husband" and prevents her being a cliched vamp.
NEGISHI Kenichi 根岸憲一's cleanly-lit HD photography makes the most of the cramped house in which almost all of the action takes place, with his camera always in the right place in an undemonstrative way. The tight running time is an extra bonus in a movie that would have benefited from a stronger pay-off but — apart from its unnecessary use of a French foreign title — is impressively unpretentious.
ContactSales: Wa Entertainment, Kanagawa, Japan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Premiere: Tokyo Film Festival (Japanese Eyes), 24 Oct 2010. Theatrical release: Japan, 23 Apr 2011.
Presented by Hospitalité Film Partners (Kinokuniya, Retoru, Wa Entertainment, Atomu Eshikusu, SDP) (JP). Produced by Wa Entertainment (JP), Seinenden (JP). Executive producer: Matsubara Osamu, Atachi Makoto, Ono Kousuke, Miyata Mikio, Iwakura Tatsuya. Producers: Fukada Koji, Sugino Kiki.
Script: Fukada Koji. Photography: Negishi Kenichi. Editor: Fukada Koji. Music: Yabu Kumiko, Kataoka Yusuke. Art direction: Suzuki Kensuke. Costumes: Suzuki Kensuke. Sound: Niigaki Ippei. Artistic direction: Hirata Oriza.
Cast: Yamauchi Kenji (Kobayashi Mikio), Sugino Kiki (Natsuki, his wife), Furutachi Kanji (Kagawa Hanatoro), Bryerly Long (Annabelle), Ono Eriko (Eriko, Mikio's daughter), Hyodo Kumi (Seiko, Mikio's sister), Matsuda Mitsuko (Toshiko, the neighbour), Kawamura Tatsuya (Kono, the musician), Sugawara Naoki (Honma Takahiro, Natsuki's half-brother), Saito Haruka (Akie, Mikio's first wife), Nagai Hideki (Yamaguchi, Mikio's worker).