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Hospitalite

Pic maintains a marvelous tension between a prim comedy of manners and unbridled slapstick.

In Koji Fukada’s gleeful farce “Hospitalite,” a quiet, low-key Tokyo family is inexorably invaded by a horde of uninvited houseguests, to the horror of the neighbors. Initially, the Kobayashis display a restrained politeness and unruffled calm worthy of classical Japanese cinema (complete with references to Ozu). But a single defection — that of the family parakeet — opens the door to dissolution and chaos, as Fukada maintains a marvelous tension between a prim comedy of manners and unbridled slapstick. Ironically, the recent global concern for Japan could extend to this sly sendup of Nipponese xenophobia.

Most of the pic’s action transpires within the claustrophobic confines of the downtown duplex that houses the Kobayashis upstairs and the family’s small printing company downstairs. Undistinguished middle-aged paterfamilias Mikio (Kenji Yamauchi) shares the space with his nubile second wife, Natsuki (Kiki Sugino); his newly divorced sister, Seiko (Kumi Hyodo); and Eriko (Eriko Ono), his young daughter by his ex-wife. Into this tranquil if not exactly joyous unit comes the energetic, enterprising acquaintance Kagawa (a marvelously self-assured Kanji Furutachi), waving a poster of Eriko’s missing bird, which he claims to have spotted.

Subbing for a sick employee in the printing shop, Kagawa boldly moves into a room upstairs, and Mikio and Natsuki are too polite and momentarily flummoxed to stop him. Soon, Kagawa’s tall, curvaceous blonde “wife,” Annabelle (Bryerly Long), arrives, presented as alternately Brazilian or Bosnian but speaking unaccented English.

The Kagawas soon blow their hosts’ simple routines to smithereens. Sounds of their loud lovemaking are heard at all hours. Annabelle sunbathes nude on the balcony and seduces Mikio, and Natsuki witnesses their coupling. Discovering that Natsuki is being blackmailed by a disgraced half-brother, Kagawa brings the black sheep into the now-crowded fold as his assistant.

Without explanation, more and more people start showing up, as scruffy, homeless Japanese and partying young Europeans and Americans crowd into the little house, living up to the worst paranoid fears of an officious neighborhood watch group.

Closely associated with the Seinenden theater troupe (which co-produced), Fukada has cast his film with many of the company’s members, whose deadpan double-takes and precision timing lend a welcome crispness to the characters’ antics. Fukada takes full advantage of the limited, almost stagelike duplex setting to create a very cinematic reinterpretation of the spatial patterns usually associated with pure farce, and showing how repression leads to explosive, inevitable release.

Hospitalite

Japan

  • Production: A Wa Entertainment, Seinendan production. (International sales: Wa Entertainment, Fujisawa, Japan.) Produced by Kiki Sugino, Koji Fukada. Executive producers, Osamu Matsubara, Makoto Dachi, Kousuke Ono, Mikiyo Miyata, Tatsuya Iwakura. Co-executive producer, Norio Enomoto. Directed, written, edited by Koji Fukada.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Kenichi Negishi; music, Kumiko Yabu, Yusuke Kataoka; production designer, Kensuke Suzuki; art director, Oriza Hirata; sound, Ippei Shingaki. Reviewed at Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 17, 2011. (In New Directors/New Films; Rotterdam Film Festival; 2010 Tokyo Film Festival.) Running time: 95 MIN.
  • With: With: Kenji Yamauchi, Kiki Sugino, Kanji Furutachi, Bryerly Long, Eriko Ono, Kumi Hyodo. (Japanese, English dialogue)
  • Music By: