Korea fits like a glove in Kore-eda

Once is not custom, Hirokazu Kore-eda had left us in the dock with his previous feature film, The Truth. A casting of choice with Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche, accompanied by Ethan Hawke, had not allowed the immense Japanese filmmaker to succeed in his French film. Fortunately, the winner of the 2018 palme d’or (A family affair) is back in shape by exporting his universe of happy thugs and blended families to South Korea.

In a country where abortion was only decriminalized in 2021, the tradition of baby boxes, these boxes made available to mothers who do not wish to raise their babies by churches, is tenacious. It is in one of these places that the story of the Japanese master begins, whose cinema is irrigated by the exchange of children at birth (even Like father, like son, one of his masterpieces), sororal dysfunctions ( our little sister) or paternal ( after the storm and The third murder). A woman places her baby in one of these boxes. Two men steal it to resell it. A misunderstanding later, here is the mother who accompanies them. And off we go for a cast of parents across the country. It’s not an easy task, because the police are watching. Then begins a game of cat and mouse.

The filmmaker likes to move the lines

Korea fits like a glove to the Japanese filmmaker. The light is splendid, the setting magnificent. Between thriller and road movie, he is wary of good intentions. The filmmaker plays neither clever nor provocative, he likes to move the lines, question certainties. The primacy of the blood family? Why not, but at what price? What about friendly and affective affinities? He does not give clear answers. Understand who will. On the other hand, Kore-eda likes to humanize the marginalized, to confront the representatives of order with illegality. With A family matter, he had caused a scandal in his country by depicting poor people surviving thanks to theft and social fraud while cultivating a solidarity that had led them to save a child. A real snub to the conservatives of his country. Here, the subject seems more simplistic. Two men, a woman and a baby with their pursuer. But the sensitivity of Kore-eda opens the film on unexpected fields. He possesses the art of the opposite, of the off-frame, of paradigm reversal. His characters are of great complexity. It is also served here by a troupe of astonishing actors including the immense Song Kang-ho, favorite actor of Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook, seen in particular in Parasite. He obtains for this role the price of male interpretation in Cannes. Only downside, already noticeable in our little sister, the music highlights the emotions as if the filmmaker did not have enough confidence in the strength of his images, in the intelligence of his script, or even in the quality and mastery of his actors. It’s a shame because the filmmaker knows like no other how to grasp the inflections and evolutions of his characters, infuse the necessary roughness to give breadth to his story. Nevertheless, Kore-eda brilliantly succeeds in exporting his universe in a language he does not master. MM

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Korea fits like a glove in Kore-eda