Rendan - Quartet for Two
Director: Naoto Takenaka
Cast: Naoto Takenaka, Yuki Amami, Keika Fukitsuka, Yuta Minowa
Excellent. This is the one word I would use to describe this movie. Veteran actor Naoto Takenaka's fourth directorial effort Rendan - Quartet for Two is definitely a hidden gem of the year (2001 in Japan, 2003 in Hong Kong).
The Sasaki family is having serious internal problems. The mother (Yuki Amami) is found having an affair with a subordinate at work while the father (Naoto Takenaka), a full-time homemaker, is belittled by his children. The two children are then forced to face the fact that their parents are going for a divorce. However, a piano concert succeeds in bringing the collapsed family together again. Apparently, this is a family tragedy that focuses on the breakdown of a dysfunctional modern family. But director Takenaka is wise enough to offer an alternative spectacle of people facing difficult situations by turning this tragedy into a light- hearted comedy. Sadness and despair are turned into humors and hope. Viewers would realize that life isn't really that miserable after all. What brings misery is your attitude. The optimistic approach of the director is what makes this story refreshing even though the subject matter is full of depressed elements.
While most of us are laughing at the son's caustic remarks on his father, we should not ignore the filmmaker's intention behind. Most of these jokes, like the quarrel of the parents, are not merely made to bring laughters but actually reflect the absurdity of reality in a decisive way. Minor details like the sleeping passengers on the bus or the constant humming of the characters are also taken care of delicately. It is a very careful and accurate observation of the cultures and social problems of contemporary Japan. Takenaka has visualized a cinematic world that is full of his own comical style yet plausible.
Naoto Takenaka plays a character that looks impotent and ignorant in the beginning. But when the film proceeds, we begin to learn more about his problems and gradually develop some form of attachment with this character. The same also goes to the mother Yuki Amami and the two children. The more we learn about their own stories, the more we love and sympathize with them. It is because the filmmaker is able to depict his characters as a human being. These characters have souls. They are not like any other typical fictitious drama characters that are lifeless.
Takenaka's peculiar sense of humor makes him a perfect candidate for the role of the father in this film. Using a comical approach to play a tragic character, he intensifies the futility of the character and brings a much bigger impact on the audience. Yuki Amami and the two children are also brilliant. The stony face of the son (Yuta Minowa) is especially impressive.
Rendan - Quartet for Two is not only a quartet for two, it is indeed a quartet for the Sasaki family. This quartet, comprised of high and low pitches, parallels the life of the family. It may not be a funny ride on the way, it is still a collaboration that requires every family member to fully paticipate in order to get through.
Reviewed by: Kantorates