Monday, May 6, 2013

Jason goes to SFIFF--Day 9

It's now Monday, the second big weekend is over and I can see the final stretch of films this week. Soon enough I'll be mourning that it's over (but not before a good night's sleep or two.) But first, to recap the weekend, starting with two films on Friday.

First up was JUVENILE OFFENDER, a drama from South Korea about (surprise) a juvenile offender. That would be sixteen year old Gi-ju, who lives with his ailing grandfather after both his parents abandoned him. So he spends most of his time getting into various shenanigans with his hoodlum friends, and landing in juvenile detention frequently. In his latest stay, his grandfather passes away and so the authorities look high and low and find his estranged mother. She had him when she was a teenager, and so she still looks young (and acts immature) enough to be his peer rather than his role model. But they try to make this work--she looks for a real job and an affordable apartment. He tries to not judge her too much. And then obvious parallels pop up when he finds out that his girlfriend had gotten pregnant (by him) and given up the baby for adoption. He claims to despise "irresponsible" people and wants to take responsibility, but she kinda doesn't want to have anything to do with him. It's more of a quiet character study than the title would suggest, but it becomes a subtle and unsentimental look at the difficulties of single mothers in Korea, and the lack of a social safety net (or even much sympathy.)

And then a real oddity from Japan, RENT A FAMILY INC, a new documentary from Kaspar Astrup Schröder (THE INVENTION OF DR. NAKAMATS). The "hero" of the movie is Ryuichi Ichinokawa, who lives in the Tokyo suburb of Kawama City. He operates an unusual business--he rents himself (and ~20-30 employees) out as "surrogates." They pretend to be friends, parents, spouses, etc. for various social obligations. In the opening scene, he's pretending to be a husband while he and his client negotiate with her ex-husband to give her access to the savings account he set up when their son was born. Ryuichi's life of duplicity extends even to his family--he keeps his work secret from them, although (spoiler alert: he does come clean during the course of the film.) This is in fact the heart of the movie, what starts out as an odd, humorous look at a weird profession becomes a touching and troubled family story. His family life, to put it lightly, is not good. He doesn't bring home enough money (his surrogate business is just one of his jobs) his children don't respect him, and he and his wife seem to only be staying together long enough to raise the kids.  At one point he admits he thinks about suicide every day (not so much anymore, the movie seems to have actually been a kind of therapy for him.) A really fascinating look at social desperation, both from the clients' and the service provider's point of view.

Total Running Time: 184 minutes
My Total Minutes: 326,615

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