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A taste of genuine Japanese 'Hospitalité'
“Hospitalité” will be shown Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Historic Yuma Theatre, 254 S. Main St.. The screening, part of the Arizona Western College Foundation's Thursdays at the Theatre, includes an independent short film and a hosted discussion. Language is Japanese with English subtitles. Run time of the feature is 96 minutes; admission is $5.
Question: How many different plot arcs and odd characters can be packed into one tiny Japanese household?
Answer: As many as you can count in the movie “Hospitalité.”
Calm before the storm
The film begins with a deceptive calm. A very conventional printer named Mikio lives in a modest Tokyo shop-home with his much younger wife Nitsuki, his daughter from a previous marriage and his recently divorced sister. About the most excitement the family gets is listening politely as the bigoted ladies in the neighborhood watch group complain about the growing number of foreigners and about the homeless who live in boxes down by the river.
And the greatest crisis in their lives is when the pet parakeet escapes from its cage. Luckily, they own a print shop, and they can run off fliers to put up on the local bulletin boards.
They get a response right away, too, from a stranger named Kagawa, who's seen the bird in the trees down at the park. Oh, and by coincidence he's the son of a financier who helped out the family business back when Mikio's dad was alive.
Also by coincidence, Kagawa is handy with the print machines; so, being that he's between jobs, he's a natural to take over as shop assistant when the current employee suddenly takes ill. And isn't it convenient that there's a room upstairs left empty by another worker who quit not long ago?
Too many questions
Turns out Kagawa might be a bit of a space cadet, though. Somehow he's forgotten to mention that his wife, Anabelle, will be moving in, too — a blond dance instructor from Brazil. Or is it Bosnia? And are they really married? It would go against Mikio and Nitsuki's good middle-class breeding, however, to actually mention any of their misgivings about the new boarder.
Gradually we realize that lots of things in this little world might not be quite what they seem. For example, who's that guy who waits outside in the shadows for Nitsuki to come out and talk to him? Why does Kagawa need to take a week off for personal business after he's just barely started on the job? And why, as soon as he leaves, is Anabelle so flirtatious with Mikio?
It seems that the sleepy routine of the household is about to be broken, what with Anabelle scandalizing the neighborhood watch posse by sunbathing nude up on the balcony, and with her and Kagawa making noisy love on the other side of the paper-thin walls. And what about the new help Kagawa starts hiring for the shop?
Something for everyone
This charming film has a little something for everyone: illicit affairs, secret siblings, unwanted guests, dark secrets, ulterior motives — a veritable cornucopia of plot twists.
Though minimalistic on the surface, the movie actually is a complex mixture of genres and styles: part dark comedy, part comedy of manners, part social satire, part pure farce. It also contains echoes of the Theatre of the Absurd as well as of Japanese classic Golden Age cinema a la the great Yasujiro Ozu. Oddly, though, the film's style and tone can't be traced to any single influence, and it stands as original and even unique.
Japan's famous xenophobia, its social inequalities, its conventional values — these and many other social realities are gently skewered. Still, the project is founded on a solid bedrock of human compassion and offers a sympathetic peek through the curtains of a far-off culture that most of us can only wonder about.