Hirokazu Kore-eda is a modest man and a modest filmmaker; he doesn’t shout at you from the roof of a multiplex (like a lot of directors). There’s a quiet confidence in the Japanese writer-director’s patient, empathetic portraits of ordinary people in the crux of a crisis, born perhaps from the international success of his 1995 debut Maborosi and his stunning follow-up After Life. His most recent film, Shoplifters, marked a new career peak, winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes last year, sweeping the Japanese Academy Awards and receiving a nomination for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
The BAMPFA series now in progress through April 24, In Focus: Hirokazu Kore-eda, deftly immerses us in the existential and pragmatic dilemmas of living in the modern world. Japan, like everywhere else only more so, is grappling with the fraying of societal bonds and the elusiveness of happiness amid revelations of corporate corruption and governmental betrayal. Kore-eda invites us to identify with characters—sometimes in the mainstream, sometimes on the outside—whose ferry ride through the world has hit the rocks.
This week’s drama, Like Father, Like Son (March 27), imagines two families confronted with the earthshaking revelation that their newborn sons were inadvertently swapped in the hospital some years ago. The fathers are of different classes (one’s a shopkeeper, the other an architect) and their homes, naturally, have vastly different vibes and temperatures. But the details of the families’ circumstances, while interesting and important, don’t obscure the enormous questions at the heart of the film: What is the foundation of parental love, and how does someone respond when it’s challenged?
Kore-eda, who started his career making documentaries, understands the profound essence of everyday life. Film historian and ace lecturer Marilyn Fabe will introduce the Wednesday matinee screenings and moderate the discussions afterward, effortlessly demolishing any preconceptions that “everyday life” means “banal.” The films will return in evening screenings in May, albeit without Ms. Fabe’s insightful analysis.