Hospitalité (Koji Fukada, 2010)

This is why we can’t have nice things

Japanese people are incapable of saying no. That observation is put to the test in Hospitalité. How far can you bend over backwards until something snaps?

In this tiny, intimate story, Mikio Kobayashi’s generosity seems boundless. The good man lives along with his young wife, sister and daughter from an earlier marriage in a small house with adjacent printing shop. One fine day Kagawa, an old acquaintance (or so he says), walks in. He turns out to be homeless, a self-styled hobo, and out of pity Mikio offers him a job and a place in the house. That is the start of a long range of ordeals testing the family’s patience and understanding.

Kagawa brings in a foreign girlfriend that he interacts with in a rather loud fashion at night. He imposes himself on the daily workings of the printing facility, but how to deal with such matters? Standing up for yourself is so gosh darned rude and brings the danger that submerged pressure points, hidden currents, are exposed. Silent acceptance appears the path of least resistance. Will there come a point when Mikio finally breaks? The question is if at that time it isn’t already too late for the dissolving household.

Hospitalité skirts the lines of tragedy and comedy and will appeal to an art house audience. The acting is subdued, underlining the setting’s realism. The film won’t leave you gasping for breath, the story is much too quaint for that. It kind of fits with the awkwardness of the events. It delivers all in all a reasonably interesting look into a family where underneath the surface – even without clochards living in – there was already a lot amiss. The casual racism practiced in the neighborhood plays an important thematic role in this. Burying your head in the sand is apparently also something the Japanese are good at.

Roderick Leeuwenhart

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