[Hirokazu Kore-edas Palme d’Or-winning drama about a Japanese
family of crooks who lift a lost little girl from the streets is a
satisfying and devastating gem.] [https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE CULTURE 

 SHOPLIFTERS REVIEW – KORE-EDA'S AUDACIOUS LATEST STEALS THE HEART
 
[https://portside.org/2019-01-15/shoplifters-review-kore-edas-audacious-latest-steals-heart]


 

 Peter Bradshaw 
 November 21, 2018
The Guardian
[https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/nov/21/shoplifters-review-hirokazu-kore-eda]


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 _ Hirokazu Kore-eda's Palme d’Or-winning drama about a Japanese
family of crooks who lift a lost little girl from the streets is a
satisfying and devastating gem. _ 

 Quiet desperation … Shoplifters. , Photograph: Fuji Television
Network/Gaga 

 

Hirokazu Kore-eda
[https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/21/hirokazu-kore-director-our-little-sister-interview]’s
Shoplifters is a complex, subtle, mysterious film that builds to the
most extraordinary surprise ending, a twist-reveal worthy of
psychological suspense noir. Yet the film is nothing like that
generically. In fact, it is another of the intricate and nuanced
family dramas in the classical Japanese style, of which Kore-eda has
made himself a modern master. Its significant plot shifts happen
unobtrusively, almost invisibly, except for those big, heart-wrenching
revelations in its final section. I admired Shoplifters very much the
first time I saw it at the Cannes film festival earlier this year (it
was the winner of the Palme d’Or), while also feeling that his
masterpiece was still his 2011 film I Wish
[https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/feb/07/i-wish-review], which
has a pellucid, almost transcendental simplicity that Shoplifters
didn’t quite have.

I Wish is still my favourite Kore-eda film, but, on a second viewing
of Shoplifters for its UK release, I can see how the comparison was
ungenerous. This is a brilliant and audacious film, one of his very
best, a study of family trauma and fear of poverty, reviving themes
from earlier films such as Nobody Knows
[https://www.theguardian.com/film/2004/may/14/cannes2004.cannesfilmfestival] (2004)
and Like Father Like Son
[https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/oct/17/like-father-like-son-review] (2013).
For all its calm gentleness, the film, which is based on a news story,
is devastatingly clear-sighted about modern Japan, its dysfunctions
and hypocrisies. Watching this, I found myself thinking of the Pink
Floyd lyric: “Quiet desperation is the English way …” It’s the
Japanese way as well.

Lily Franky (from Like Father Like Son) plays Osamu, a man with a
shifty, wheedling grin. He is effectively the Fagin-like head of an
extended family of roguish people all nursing secrets and lies. This
household appears to be a middle-aged husband and wife, a teen
daughter (or perhaps younger sister to the wife?), a young son and a
grandma – all living together in a cramped apartment rented from a
suspect landlord who has to keep changing the names on his
properties’ title deeds as part of his tax dodge of “flipping”
notional ownership.

Theoretically a casual labourer on construction sites, Osamu actually
makes his money selling the things he steals on daily shoplifting
expeditions with his boy, Shota (Kairi Jyo). His wife, Noboyu (Sakura
Andô), works in a hotel laundry and she, too, steals things left in
clothes’ pockets all the time. The younger woman is Aki (Mayu
Matsuoka) who brings in her share of the family finances by taking
part in a soft-porn peep show in town. Hatsue is the grandma, who
supports this family with her pension and who also guilt-trips the
grownup children of her late husband’s second wife into giving her
money, which she mostly pours into pachinko slot machines. Hatsue is
wonderfully played by veteran Japanese character actress Kirin Kiki
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirin_Kiki]. It was her last
performance; she died in September this year.

One day, coming home on a freezing night after a hard day stealing
from supermarkets, Osamu and Shota come across a little girl of
perhaps six or seven shivering in the cold. Impulsively, Osamu decides
to take the poor homeless little waif in for a few days. She appears
to have marks on her body consistent with abuse and she wets the bed:
another classic sign. Osamu’s wicked old heart is evidently melted,
and he says that they will keep this little girl, Juri (Miyu Sasaki),
and train her up in the ways of shoplifting, which include making odd
little hand gestures to your thief-partner to indicate when and what
you intend to steal. And this despite the TV news broadcasts about
this little girl having gone missing.

But it is not just a question of Osamu finding redemption in doing
good, nor is it a simple irony in Osamu’s crook-family fulfilling
the function of the social services and the caring state – the state
that would disapprove of and indeed prosecute Osamu if it knew what he
was up to. The point is that Osamu has, in his amoral way, stolen Juri
in just the same way as he steals everything else. And it isn’t the
first time he’s done it. His ambiguously benevolent abduction of
Juri is part of a larger pattern of concealment in which the whole
family unit is involved. Nothing is what it seems.

It is a movie made up of delicate brushstrokes: details, moments,
looks and smiles. Shoplifters is the story of a group of frightened,
damaged people who have made common cause with each other, banded
together under the convenience flag of family, under the radar of the
law, making the best of things from day to day, until they realise
they have been making the worst of things. A rich, satisfying and
deeply intelligent film.

 

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