The Lucky Starscuriously well received by French critics no doubt blinded by the eternal politics of the authors, is one of the first real failures of the immense Kore-eda, which gets lost in South Korea in the mixture of genres and a vision far too idyllic of humanity.
It is somewhat shocking to read the concert of praise offered by the “institutional critic” to welcome the Good Starsthe last Hirozaku Kore-eda… which is not far from being his worst film… Like any fan, indeed anyone familiar with the work of the last great Japanese director in activity (the guy who made gigantic films like Nobody Knows Where still walking…) will tell you without flinching. As if the dramatically low level of cinema attendance at the moment justified lying to the public, or worse, lying to ourselves, just to attract a few more gogos to dark rooms. As if the rather deplorable general state of popular film production explained why we defend any (great) auteur film despite its obvious weaknesses. Which is obviously totally counterproductive, and will scare the viewer even more, ultimately much more satisfied at home in front of their streaming platforms.
Let us explain our disappointment: after the artistic and popular triumph of A family mattera well-deserved Cannes Palme d’Or, which represented a new balance between his taste for melodrama and good feelings and his talent for crudely describing the harshness of the world in general, or rather of Japanese society in particular, Kore-eda had the funny idea of transposing more or less the same theme to Korea: here is another blended family, built on acts prohibited by society and the law, the starting point here being the theft of babies abandoned by their mothers in the “baby boxes” created for this purpose to feed a villainous traffic! Which allows to Kore-eda to benefit from a superlative distribution – Korea having for thirty years largely exceeded Japan in terms of cinematography -, including the brilliant Song Kang-Horewarded with a perfectly deserved interpretation prize, and to film magnificent urban or coastal landscapes, different from those to which he has accustomed us in his Japanese films.
Even better, Kore-eda “Koreanizes” its cinema by trying in turn to adopt this famous principle of the “mixing of genres” which has made the success of local production: the Good Stars is both a thriller, long enough enigmatic, a comedy, a drama and a melodrama. Why not ? Except that the police side does not lead to anything, the potentially threatening characters of the mobsters and their “godmother” ending up being diluted in the landscape. Except that comedy remains too “well educated”, too Japanese in the end, for enough caricature and derision to energize social criticism. Except that the drama never occurs, so much the characters all seem to have unlimited resources of kindness, and especially so much all the behaviors become justifiable, and so much the worst crimes are not finally what they seem a priori.
The result is a two-tenth film that feels awfully long – half an hour less could have partially saved it – and which, after culminating halfway through in a few scenes of dazzlingly emotional intensity (of those moments when we find intact the pure genius of Kore-eda), literally unravels during its appalling last twenty minutes: the murderer is pardoned by the courts, the child traffickers are nice dads, the cops drop the law and play surrogate parents, etc. Nothing makes sense, neither in terms of logical plausibility, nor with regard to the psychology of the characters, drowned in a rather sickening syrup.
Disappointment is therefore inevitable, especially if we compare these Good Stars where everyone has their reasons (as in a misreading of the precepts of Renoir !) to the realistic darkness ofA family matter. Fortunately, there remains, as we have already said, this crazy talent that Kore-eda to upset us with nothing, a gaze lost in the void of a young woman to whom someone is sewing a button for the first time in her life, a child who is afraid and wants to vomit on the top of a Ferris wheel … Almost nothing: the fragile beauty of life in its simplest expression, that Kore-eda knows how to capture like few modern directors.
After this faux pas, which, let’s be clear, has nothing dramatic about it, nothing shameful, we would like him to come back to Japan, and confine himself the next time to a simple story, which he will be able to enchant like he always has.
The Good Stars
South Korean film by Hirokazu Kore-eda
With: Song Kang-Ho, Gang Dong-Won, Bae Doo-Na, Lee Ji-Eun…
Theatrical release date: December 7, 2022
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“Les Bonnes étoiles” by Hirokazu Kore-eda: the (failed) trip to Busan – Benzine Magazine