Cannes Film Festival: the Japanese Hirokazu Kore-eda for the eighth time on the Croisette with “Broker”

Once again selected Cannes film festivalHirokazu Kore-eda presents broker, the second film of his career shot outside of Japan. The story takes place in South Korea, where baby boxes – boxes intended to collect anonymously abandoned babies – have been growing since adoption laws have been tightened. The theme of filiation is the director’s favorite subject.

Born in Tokyo in 1962, Hirokazu Kore-eda grew up with a cinephile mother who introduced her to the great actresses of her youth: Ingrid Bergman, Joan Fontaine and Vivien Leigh. He continues his initiation during his years of study: instead of going to the university to which he is registered, he spends his time in dark rooms. He saw there the works of Rossellini, Cassavetes or Truffaut. But it was thanks to Fellini that he discovered his vocation as a filmmaker.

His career began on television with the production of documentaries. He develops a way of filming close to reportage that he will apply to his cinema. His very first film, Maborosi, depicts the life of a young woman marked by the disappearance of her loved ones. He received the Osella Prize at the 52nd Venice Film Festival in 1995. His feature films were subsequently acclaimed by festivals around the world, including Cannes. The festival rolls out the red carpet for Hirokazu Kore-eda, the filmmaker of the family and its cracks.

Accustomed to the Cannes Film Festival

Hirokazu Kore-eda is one of the regulars at the Cannes Film Festival. Throughout his career, he has accumulated eight selections in competition and in the Un Certain Regard section. In 2018, the filmmaker won the Palme d’Or for his feature film A family matter. The film tells the life of a destitute Japanese family who decides to adopt a little girl mistreated by her parents. Despite their poverty, the household seems to be happy, until an event reveals some bleak secrets.

The filmmaker films the complexity of the ties, blood or not, which unite the members of the same family. Inspired by a news item – the story of a sibling of Japanese pilferers who resold stolen objects to live – he denounces Japanese society, and its outcasts. The camera of Kondo Ruyto, director of photography, manages to capture in confined spaces several values ​​of superimposed shots, an accumulation of details, as during dinners. The scenography caught the eye of the jury that year: “There is grace in this film, in the staging”, justified Denis Villeneuve.

Documentary at heart

The documentary approach irrigates cinema with Hirokazu Kore-eda. And for good reason, the director began his career as a reporter for the production company TV Man Union. In the field, he collects his own testimonies. Back in the studio, he edits alone. Hirokazu Kore-eda has released several documentaries like Without memory (1994) on a father who, after a botched operation, loses his immediate memory. The filmmaker delves into the subject of memory with his fantastic feature film, after-life.

In this film, twenty four dead parade in front of “the office of limbo” where everyone must choose a memory that will be the subject of a film to take with them for eternity. To do this, the director recorded the memories of ordinary women and men, like a journalist. In total, he collected 500 interviews, some of which were used in the film, sometimes even played by those who had told them. It shows the actors in a sequence shot, seated at a table facing “immortals”.

Japanese director Kore-Eda Hirokazu in Cannes May 12, 2004, on the opening day of the 57th Cannes International Film Festival. This time, he's the one behind the camera.  (FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

Family observer

Subtly dissecting family ties and their deficiencies is the specialty of Hirokazu Kore-eda. He draws his inspiration from his own story. During his childhood, his father was addicted to gambling and struggled to find a stable job. On paydays, he disappears with his salary for a while, leaving his family in fear of a definitive departure. His mother assumes all the responsibilities. Hirokazu Kore-eda has only one fear: that she will abandon them in turn. He brings this anguish to the screen in Nobody knowsa sibling left to fend for itself.

Beyond the failure of the parents, Hirokazu Kore-eda is interested in filiation: does belonging to the same family always mean being of the same blood? The filmmaker, also a dad, questions the relationship between biological and emotional ties through several films including Like father, like son. The feature film features the discovery of a baby-swap at birth years later. The director also deals with life after the loss of a loved one in still walking : the story of a family that commemorates each year the death of a son in the presence of the person in charge. A work that allowed the director to mourn his own mother.

A scene from the movie "Our Little Sister", by Hirokazu Kore-Eda, 2015.  (TOHO COMPANY / GAGA / CHRISTOPHEL COLLECTION VIA AFP)

childhood filmmaker

No one films childhood like Hirokazu Kore-eda. On the set of Nobody knows, the filmmaker plays with the children before leaving the frame and continuing to film them. He takes close-ups of faces – their expressions – but also hands, especially when children draw on pots of instant noodles. His camera captures everyday scenes as spontaneously as possible, leaving room for the unexpected.

Like the filmmakers of the French New Wave, he is not afraid of filming accidents, on the contrary. Hirokazu Kore-eda favors improvisation. For the movie A family matterthe children arrive on the set without text, Hirokazu Kore-eda whispers the lines in their ear. They never have to prepare a scene. When there is a script, the director spends his time rewriting it to incorporate the ideas and proposals of young people. A flexibility, an immediacy that makes the authenticity of his cinema.

movie scene "Nobody knows", released in 2004.  (BANDAI VISUAL COMPANY / CHRISTOPHEL COLLECTION VIA AFP)

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Cannes Film Festival: the Japanese Hirokazu Kore-eda for the eighth time on the Croisette with “Broker”