Sunday, November 21, 2010

(About Her Brother) Family Matters - Karen

To celebrate opening night of the festival we are covering the wonderful performances of Japanese starlet, Yu Aoi. She can be seen up on the big screen for the first 2 nights of the festival, in "About Her Brother" and "Flowers" respectively. You can catch Joseph's review of "Flowers" here, or read on below to see first time contributor Karen Michelmore's piece on "About Her Brother".

I don’t know anyone who has a normal family. 

Usually there is one crazy cousin somewhere, or sibling who is eccentrically and outlandishly always themselves. 

There’s also usually a wide array of personality types, and issues bubbling away, which can combine on occasion into a powder keg of emotion. 

'About Her Brother' is no different. It’s pretty real in this way. 

It’s the story of a small family in a quiet part of Tokyo.

Three generations of women in one house, and the result of this situation.

"Gingko is a pharmacist and a widow. Her daughter Koharu (Yu Aoi) – and the film’s sometimes narrator - marries and divorces a pretty ordinary doctor. And her mother complains constantly about her own loneliness and lack of companionship. But no one’s listening. But the film isn’t a story about the relationships between these women. They are not really explored in any meaningful way. As the title suggests, it’s all about Gingko (Sayuri Yoshinaga - Kabei Our Mother - 12th JFF) and her alcoholic brother, Tetsuro.

Tetsuro is the kind of person who bumbles through life, blissfully unaware of the mayhem he’s created. Or seemingly so. The 126-minute film – directed by veteran Yoji Yamada – is dotted with comedy from Tetsuro, played by Tsurube Shofukutei (also seen in Dear Doctor - 14th JFF). During one particularly memorable wedding scene, you’ll probably laugh out loud (well I did), as he gets drunk and wreaks a trail of destruction at a rather staid event, much to the horror of guests. He challenges the fuddy-duddy nature of some Tokyo traditions, reminding us in his own unconventional way that it is supposed to be a celebration after all.

His initial scenes reminded me of the old black and white Jerry Lewis movies and are a pleasant injection of humor and sparkle into a film that has a poignant underlying message, and takes quite a depressing turn when Tetsuro becomes ill. Behind Tetsuro’s mirth is a subtle but sad story of addiction and isolation. This film will make you think about the family dynamics of guilt, obligation and frustration. The message is pretty simple. Sometimes family members infuriate us. Most of the time we love them unconditionally anyway." by Karen Michelmore

Thanks to Karen for that piece. While the main story arc of the film is the relationship between Gingko and 'Her Brother', the plot of the film revolves around Aoi's Koharu, and her perofrmance can not be discounted. She has a strong bond with Tetsuro (he named her afterall) and this is tried and tested throughout. Aoi is able to play the innocent girl being married off to a new family quite profoundly, something she does in both "About Her Brother" and "Flowers". The 2 roles differ slightly in their outcome, but both portray the trials and tribulations of a young woman in Japanese society, and the life choices that are presented to them.

Having won best supporting actress for three films in a row (Honey and Clover, Hula Girls and Rainbow Song) and with these two emerging roles, Yu Aoi is one to watch for the future. Don't miss her at the 14th Japanese Film Festival in Sydney tonight!

See you at the festival!

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