Noriko's Dinner Table
noriko's dinner table | sion sono | kazue fukiishi | tsugumi | yuriko toshitaka | suicide club | sequel | drama | japan | shiro namiki | sanae miyata | yoko mitsuya | tamae ando | naoko watanabe | ken mitsuishi | hiroshi sakuma | chihiro abe | hanako onuki | cult
Film: Noriko’s Dinner Table (Noriko no shokutaku)
Director: Sion Sono
Writer: Sion Sono
Starring: Kazue Fukiishi, Tsugumi and Yuriko Toshitaka
This was a film that I’m pretty sure intrigued me back in college when it and it had been sitting on my Netflix list since then. I finally got it in the mail and decided to check it out. I came in pretty blind aside from that and didn’t realize until I started it that it was from Sion Sono and technically a prequel, running concurrently and a kind of sequel to Suicide Club, a film I haven’t see yet, but is on my short list. The synopsis for this one though is a teenager runs away from her family to Tokyo, where she gets involved with a strange group of people.
We start off learning one of our main characters, Noriko Shimabara (Kazue Fukiishi) has run away from home. She’s from a small town of Toyokama, Japan and she flees to Tokyo. The movie is not told in a linear way and is broken up into 5 chapters. Each one is named after our 4 main characters with a final chapter to bring it all together to an end. Back to what I was saying, Noriko flees from home to Tokyo after a run in with her father.
It fills us in that she’s shy and quite timid. Her father is Tetsuzô (Ken Mitsuishi) who is a local reporter. He’s strict with her and she tries to impress him, taking on a position with her school’s newspaper. One of the crusades she takes on is getting the school to allow them more time on the computer. This turns out to be a bit selfish since her father uses the computer at home. She is trying to find a way to connect through the internet to others. Noriko is unhappy that she wants to go to Tokyo for college but her father forbids it. Her two cousins who went there both came home pregnant and he thinks that will happen to her as well. Her drive to leave is even worse when she meets a former friend from childhood, Tangerine (Yôko Mitsuya), who is no longer going to school, but is something called an ‘idol’ which I’m assuming is similar to be a prostitute.
In Tokyo, Noriko assumes the identity of Mitsuko, her username for a site called Haikyo.com. She tries to meet with someone from this site as she doesn’t know anyone else. Her name on there is Ueno54. Noriko goes to meet her at Ueno Station and after some investigation learns the number is for a locker. This brings her to meet Kumiko (Tsugumi) along with her family. It turns out not to be the case though. Noriko then learns some information about her new friend.
It’s around this point where we learn how this ties into Suicide Club. 54 girls jump in front of a subway train to commit suicide. The other chapters in this are that Noriko’s sister Yuka (Yuriko Yoshitaka) looks into what happened to her sister which also brings her to Haikyo.com. She disappears as well, but she leaves clues for her father to follow. She predicts what she thinks he will do. Tetsuzo does some of them, but he also loses his mind to find out what happened to his daughters as his family falls apart. This brings them all into world underneath to find out the truth.
Now I have to say that I’m a bit upset with myself for not doing a bit more research into this movie before watching it. I would have sought out Suicide Club first and then this. I did watch an interview with the writer/director Sono after completing the movie which made me feel a bit better that it doesn’t really affect the story here. It really just seems to explain some aspects a bit more for the other movie.
Something I really liked about this movie is all of the social commentary that we’re working with. I kind of want to break down the 4 main characters as each one really seems to be tackling a different issue with some overlap. This first chapter follows Noriko. What translate here according to Sono and I also do agree, is that she’s growing up in a small town with a strict father. There aren’t a lot of young women around her that she can connect with so she goes online. Even as a male, I did feel lost after college and it took me getting into this hobby of reviewing horror films which led me to podcasts that I really found my place and brought enjoyment to my life. I feel horrible for Noriko as she wants to go to college in Tokyo, but her father doesn’t want her to as he doesn’t understand. He thinks what happened to her cousins will happen to her as well. Playing off of this though, she’s a bright girl with a thirst for knowledge. The strictness of her father really causes her to run away and into the situation she finds herself.
Chapter 2 then follows her sister Yuka. She ends up following her sister to Tokyo. What I found interesting here is that Noriko thinks of her as the golden child, but when we see from Yuka’s point of view, she really admires her sister. We don’t get that at all in the first chapter. Yuka does fit into the system a bit more though Japan is really known for their family ties and not dishonoring them. Yuka sees what Noriko does to put her down this path. She wants her father to find them though. She left clues like this is a mystery novel which is interesting. Seeing this from multiple points of view is a great way to build the story.
Next we then follow Kumiko who as I said, we thinks she shows up to Ueno Station with her family. We learn through this interaction that for work she will send people, including herself, to live out fantasies with the clients. The people that she shows up there with aren’t really her family and they’re pretending with another example is Noriko and her go to a man’s house to pretend to be rebellious sisters for a lonely man who acts as their father. I found it interesting that this is something these young women could for money, but going back to how strong family ties are there. If you don’t have family, you’re probably lonely and would pay for the feeling that it brings.
The fourth chapter follows Tetsuzo as he tries to figure out what’s going on. He follows clues that were left for him by Yuka and using the skills as a reporter it leads him to this suicide club. The movie does fill in a lot of things behind the scenes from it and from things in Suicide Club, which includes the major event of that movie. Tetsuzo is to blame for his daughters leaving and what happens to his wife, Taeko (Sanae Miyata). She can’t handle her daughters leaving either. Tetsuzo also admits he chose his job over family and there’s also a gap in the generations. He either cannot see that Noriko was unhappy or he willfully ignored it. He isn’t connecting with his children and doesn’t see the truth. It’s sad to be honest and seeing how everything ends up as well.
I want to shift gears and take to this over to the pacing. I do think that we have some slight issues here if I’m going to be honest. It just runs too long. The runtime clocks in around 159 minutes and I think there’s quite a bit that could be cut out without sacrificing anything with the story. What I found interesting was that this is a based off of a novel also written by Sono. During his interview he talks about would he adapt other writers work and he was hesitant. It feels like he adapted everything from the novel and didn’t want to cut anything out which hurts the flow in my opinion. That’s not to say that I hated this, as that’s far from the case. It made me feel quite anxious for a good portion of it and the mystery worked. I even like the ending. It isn’t how I prefer normally, but it works for how things play out. It really does feel the tone.
As for the acting, I thought this one of the strongest parts of the movie. I like how it established Fukiishi from the timid girl we see in the beginning to where she is when working with Kumiko in Tokyo. There’s a drastic change and we see her living out her emotions with clients who aren’t really her family. It all comes to a head with the climax for sure. Mitshuishi is also intriguing as we get growth from his as well. He is the crux of what causes all of the bad things to happen to his family and he hits rock-bottom in order to fix things. This is redemption story of sorts, but not necessarily with a happy ending. Toshitaka I thought was really good as well. Tsugumi is interesting as she is villainous, but I still feel bad for her. She’s broken young woman who’s hurting others, but also giving them a family that they desire. There are some deep seeded issues there that she’s ignoring with herself as that’s all she really wants. She has just dealt with bad things that she put up a wall and refuses to feel. I would say that the rest of the cast really does round this out for was needed as well.
This movie is a bit lighter on the horror than I was expecting. I bring this up as there’s not a lot in the way of effects. The horror from this is the underworld that this family ends up dealing with. The blood we get does look good. We get images of what I’m assuming is Suicide Club. The climax has some blood, but that’s all I can think of. The cinematography though was well done. We’re delving into the past so it has that hazy look to it. I thought it was effective and the movie is shot well overall.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. My favorite selection as used on the DVD menu. It is a classical sounding song that is just unnerving when coupled with things that we’re seeing on the screen. It isn’t horror in the traditional sense. It’s the anxious driving feeling of seeing the things this family is dealing with for sure. I thought the score really fit there for what was needed.
Now with that said, this is an intriguing film. I’m a bit upset that I watched this before the original, but again, from what I read it doesn’t affect it too much. I think this is an interesting social commentary of what these characters are dealing with. The acting really helps to bring this to life along with the soundtrack that fits very well. There’s not a lot in the way of effects and if I have any negative things to say, it is just that this movies runs a bit too long so it does get repetitive. Not enough to ruin this though and I still enjoyed what I was seeing. I will warn you, this is from Japan. I watched it with subtitles. I’m not sure if there’s a dubbed version so if you can’t get past that, I would avoid this. If you can though, I would recommend giving this a viewing as I thought this was a good movie.
My Rating: 8 out of 10