A rare film that evokes our present-day atmosphere with surprising immediacy, Himizu is the latest work from Sion Sono, Japanese master of extreme cinema.
While working on Himizu, his adaptation of Furuya Minoru’s manga of the same name, Sono was confronted with the devastation of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and its consequent atomic accidents, prompting him to weave actuality into the complex tapestry of his imagination.
“Don’t give up.” The constant refrain repeated in radio and television programmes to a nation hit by the merciless catastrophe sounds even more ominous when written in a note left by Yuichi Sumida’s mother after running off with her lover. At fifteen, Sumida (Shôta Sometani) is left alone to manage the family’s languishing boat-rental business and fend off his drunk and penniless father’s bouts of violence. Sumida sees his simple dream for an ordinary future rapidly evaporating before his eyes. Sharing similarly humble but fading dreams is his classmate Keiko Chazawa (Fumi Nikaidou), who also happens to have a major crush on him, even though Sumida seems deeply annoyed by her presence.
When Sumida’s father shows up one night and, for the hundredth time, curses his son for being born — wishing him dead so he can collect on his life insurance — the young boy can no longer contain his repressed anger.
Guided by Sono’s capable direction, Sometani and Nikaidou give visceral performances as lost youth facing a terrible reality, bringing to life the film’s ghastly beauty. A dark masterpiece, Himizu unleashes powerful content and impeccable style. It is destined to dwell in the viewer’s memory for a long time to come. –TIFF
Sion Sono (園 子温 Sono Shion, born 1961) is a controversial filmmaker and poet. He was born in Toyokawa, Aichi, Japan and is best known for his movies and avant-garde poetry performances.
After receiving a fellowship with the PIA, Sono made his first feature-length 16 mm film in 1990, Bicycle Sighs (Jitensha Toiki), which he co-wrote, directed, and starred himself. A coming-of-age tale about two underachievers in the perfectionist Japan, Bicycle Sighs settled Sono as a director with great box office success in Japan, and for nearly two years was played over 30 film festivals around Europe and Asia. In 1992, Sono’s second feature film The Room (Heya), also written by himself, a bizarre tale about a serial killer looking for a room in a bleak, doomed Tokyo district, participated at the Tokyo Sundance Film Festival and won the Special Jury Prize. The Room also toured on 49 festivals worldwide, including the Berlin Film Festival and… read more
Sono continues to demonstrate flair, passion and playfulness which allows his film to approach adult themes in its quirky and twisted representation of youth alienation in contemporary society. Though I really like him as a film-maker, Sono continues his trend of making films about 30 minutes longer than they really need to be.
The Sono films I watched always had tragic endings in that protagonists end up giving up and there seems to exist no possibility of human sanity and goodness. Somehow I don't manage to find any of his films funny.They are all serious. At the end of Himizu, I was fearfully expecting the same but here I see Sono's bright view on youth and life. May Japan thrive!
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Silver Lion for Cai Shangjun (People Mountain People Sea). Acting awards for Michael Fassbender and Deanie Ip.
Sono Sion’s Himizu, his second film of 2011, is set just after Japan’s devastating natural catastrophe.
The general consensus: screechingly loud, sloppily incongruous, but possibly great.