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Be Sure to Share

A gentle meditation on father/son bonding in the face of death, seems atypical, if not anticlimactic.

With:
With: Akira, Eiji Okuda, Keiko Takahashi, Ayumi Ito, Sosuke Takaoka, Denden.

Coming on the heels of “Love Exposure,” his violently subversive, four-hour-longcompendium of religion and porn, Sion Sono’s “Be Sure to Share,” a gentle meditation on father/son bonding in the face of death, seems atypical, if not anticlimactic. Yet beyond its simple sincerity (the film was reportedly made as a reaction to the recent death of Sono’s own father), myriad tensions ripple its almost unnaturally serene surface. Heralded by Sono fans as proof of the maestro’s versatility, pic’s subtle weirdnesses will make it tough to market as an arthouse meller outside Japan, where it’s skedded to bow Aug. 22.

When his strong athletic father (actor-director Eiji Okuda) is diagnosed with cancer, Shiro (pop singer Akira) and his mother (Keiko Takahashi) spend long hours at the hospital, their days taking on a ritual sameness.

The mother (whose love for her husband is wordlessly conveyed by her nightly stroking of the adjacent empty bedding) daily dons her gloves, locks the door and waits for the bus, always greeted by the same driver. Shiro runs through fields and over bridges to his office, showing up at the hospital a few hours later. The family hangs out in apparent equanimity — husband and wife in easy intimacy, father and son united by much-discussed plans to go fishing.

But neither Shiro nor his father have ever gone fishing; their closeness is a recent development that must be carefully nurtured through shared fantasies and fixations.

Shiro narrates the film in voiceover, continually berating himself for not having spent more quality time with his dad. But nightmare-triggered flashbacks reveal a dictatorial teacher/soccer coach who treated his son very harshly.

Disturbing childhood flashbacks are not the only means by which Sono disrupts the tranquility of the reunited family. Pic almost imperceptibly reshuffles the sequence of events, the chronological displacements apparent only when the narrative rejoins an earlier scene, from a slightly different angle and with very different foreknowledge. This constant intrusion of reality, at odds with the regret and longing of the present, gives the pic its peculiar poignancy, but also tips it toward the grotesque as Shiro grows increasingly obsessed with the fishing trip.

Shogo Ueno’s lensing infuses natural and manmade landscapes with a diffused calm that somehow sanctifies Shiro’s filial devotion, even at its most insanely self-sacrificial.

Be Sure to Share

Japan

Production: A Gaga Communications production. Produced by Yasushi Umemura. Executive producer, Nichiho Marushige. Directed, written by Sion Sono.

Crew: Camera (color), Shogo Ueno; editor, Junichi Ito; art director, Yuto Oba; sound (DTS), Hirosuke Nichijo. Reviewed at New York Asian Film Festival, July 5, 2009. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: With: Akira, Eiji Okuda, Keiko Takahashi, Ayumi Ito, Sosuke Takaoka, Denden.

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