Reviewed by: Robert Munro

Set in working class contemporary Tokyo, Hospitalité begins with a promising and intriguing set-up before falling to pieces over the last half hour. Mr Kobayashi (Kenji Yamauchi) is a quiet, mild-mannered man who operates a printing business from home. He lives with his divorced sister, his young wife Nitsuki (Kiki Sugino) and his daughter from a previous marriage. There’s an early sense of intrigue and tension with the relationships at home; Kobayashi’s sister is subtly cold towards his wife Nitsuko and there’s also a certain distance and stifled strangeness between husband and wife. And then there’s the missing pet parakeet.

Added to this there’s a continued sense of threat from outside. The neighbours regularly pop round to discuss their neighbourhood watch group – an ignorant busy-body sort, who speaks worryingly of ‘foreigners’ and the ‘homeless’ bringing trouble, heads the group. Then the mysterious drifter Kagawa (Kanji Furutachi) arrives and talks his way into a job, and a room, at the Kobayashis'.

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Up to this point Fukada’s script is lean and interesting. We can’t quite get a grip on any of the characters and their motivations. The Kobayashi’s house becomes a prison, with mostly medium-to-long shots seeming to emphasise the limitations of space brought around by this intruder. Kagawa then nonchalantly announces that his Brazilian wife, who can barely speak Japanese, will be staying with them: she tells the man who comes to deliver Kobayashi’s ink that she’s Bosnian. Then there’s the mysterious man that Nitsuki sees from her balcony and hurries out to meet...

It’s difficult to justify the disappointment brought about by the film without also spoiling the plot and just how quickly and, it feels, illogically disintegrates. The tension has been built up so well by Fukada, and is best evidenced in an excruciating scene soon after Kagawa’s Brazilian/Bosnian wife appears. While those two noisily make love in a room above, Kobayashi and Nitsuko lie awkwardly in separate, yet-adjoining, beds. Kobayashi talks briefly and stiltedly about his previous marriage before making a clumsily and ill-timed move on Nitsuko. The scene plays out cleverly as the panting and grunting from up stairs evokes Kobayashi’s poorly articulated appreciation of Nitsuko’s role in the family. It’s a smart manipulation of sound and space.

After being built up much like a thriller in which expectations shift around with each new revelation about the characters, the film quickly falls apart and fails to deliver on its opening of promise, intrigue and poise. The denouement feels silly and irrelevant to everything that has gone before. It feels like a misjudged attempt to solve the restricted relationships in the family with a ‘can’t-we-all-just-get-along-and-love-each-other-maaan’ attitude, which is neither convincing, interesting or believable. What a shame.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2012
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A family welcome an unusual guest into their house, who soon assumes control and begins playing the family against each other.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Kôji Fukada

Starring: Kenji Yamauchi, Kanji Furutachi

Year: 2010

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Japan


EIFF 2012

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