“Love Life”: when old loves disturb a model home

Taeko (Fumino Kimura) in


A hardened despiser of Japanese society, which he passes with a scalpel with a cold gaze, with suppressed fury, the Japanese Koji Fukada is, at 43, the author of an already well-stocked work (ten feature films), considerably varied (an anime adaptation of La Grenadiere according to Balzac in 2006, the SF film Sayonara in 2016, or the serial diptych Follow me I run away from you/Follow me I follow you in 2020), and yet not fully stabilized. lovelife, in competition at the Venice Film Festival in 2021, attests to this in its own way, examining the Japanese nuclear family, and more particularly the couple, by subjecting it to the shock of overwhelming mourning, as if to better explore its flaws.

Taeko (Fumino Kimura) and Jiro (Kento Nagayama), two social workers, make up a model home with their little boy Keita (Tetta Shimada), living in an apartment in a block of buildings in a vast peri-urban complex. They are preparing to celebrate with their friends the 60th birthday of the paternal grandfather (Tomorowo Taguchi), an old man devoured by resentment, who has still not accepted his daughter-in-law.

We learn on this occasion that Taeko is a remarried woman and therefore devalued, and Keita the child of a first bed that Jiro has agreed to raise as his own, so many sprains to the ideal conjugality scheme. Similarly, among the guests is, before she slips away, a certain Yamazaki, Jiro’s former fiancée, who left for Taeko. During the little party, a tragedy occurs, which brings another man into the equation: Park (Atom Sunada), Keita’s biological father, a deaf-mute Korean immigrant, returned from long years of wandering.

Formal attire

Methodically, Koji Fukada strives to deconstruct the conjugal fiction, peeled scene after scene like an onion: this convention which is only made of the burial of previous loves, of the relationships that we have left behind. The misfortune comes from the taboo that weighs on these relationships: they cannot be articulated, but must be experienced independently, each in its own corner, as required by the law of exclusivity. By bringing them to the surface, the filmmaker implicitly designates the love life – the “love life” – as a great power of concealment, a machine for exclusion.

Fukada’s distant observation immediately gives the drama a certain formality, an art of the frame, rooted in daily rituals, but undermined from the inside by all sorts of disturbances (a CD attached to the balcony to scare away the pigeons which streaks the scene with blinding flashes). The filmmaker has a heavier hand when it comes to striking the claws, which are not always very subtle: scenes of gratuitous aggression or settling of scores, cries and tears, when the social veneer crackle, always ring a little false, occurring like so many badly channeled blows of force. Acidic, discordant filmmaker, Fukada sometimes finds it difficult to sink his outbursts into the imperturbable discipline of his staging. When it comes to facing death, he stumbles: the camera insists heavily on a low noise agony, in the face of which his cold and detached regime becomes painful.

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