With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, June 16, 2017

HARMONIUM reviewed; opens today at Lincoln Center in New York

Toshio, Yasaka, Akié, and Hotaru dining together
Harmonium / Fuchi ni tatsu
Directed by Kôji Fukada
Japan/France, 2016, 118 minutes
Japanese with English subtitles

When: Opens today, Friday, June 16, 2017
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
Film Society of Lincoln Center
144 West 65th Street, NYC

Harmonium, which won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes in 2016, opens today in New York. It is a powerful drama about a Japanese family, with strong elements of the mystery-thriller genre.

Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) has a metal workshop in the garage attached to the home where he lives with his wife Akié (Mariko Tsutsui) and their adorable daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa), who plays the harmonium. One day, Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), a friend of Toshio's, unexpectedly shows up. He has just been released after serving a substantial prison sentence.

Toshio hires him to work as an assistant for what is to be a relatively short period of time. Clearly there is some mystery not only about why Yasaka was imprisoned, but also just what history he and Toshio share. The upshot -- not to give anything away, which would be a crime in its own right -- is that strange and weird elements creep into the relationships within the family and between them and Yasaka.

When I finished watching the film, I let out a soft, quiet "whoa" because I was so stunned. Harmonium is a masterful tale that is sure to grip you and not let go, even after it is over.

AsianCineFest Rating: 4 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended

On May 22, 2016, after Harmonium had won its prize at Cannes, Film Comment ran Nicholas Rapold's interview with director Kôji Fukada. It's available to be read online here.

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