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Noriko's Dinner Table (DVD Review)

27 Apr, 2008 By: Matt Miller

Prebook 4/29/08; Street 5/27/08
$24.95 DVD
Not rated.
In Japanese with English subtitles.
Stars Kazue Fukiishi, Ken Mitsuishi, Tsugumi, Yuriko Yoshitaka.

Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono has made an art of showcasing the growing disconnect between today's youth and society. His 2002 cult classic Suicide Club was a horrific commentary on the ever-growing suicide rate in Japan.

In Noriko's Dinner Table, a whimsical extension of Suicide Club, Sono digs deeper into that teen angst, delivering a provocative, poetic mix of horror, drama and dark satire that shatters the J-horror mold.

Noriko's Dinner Table is broken down into five chapters, telling a story through the eyes of its four main characters. The film's catalyst is Noriko (Fukiishi), a 17-year-old girl looking to start a new life away from her provincial seaside town and her controlling father, Tetsuzo (Mitsuishi). With help from a mysterious online social networking site called Haikyo.com, she takes on the alluring moniker Mitsuko and hastily runs off to Tokyo to meet with her new friends. Noriko tracks down the site's moderator, Kumiko (Tsugumi), a manipulative, street-smart young woman who indoctrinates Noriko into a strange cult who rent themselves out as family members to lonely people.

Six months later, Noriko's sister, Yuka (Yoshitaka), discovers Haikyo.com and sets off to find Noriko, becoming the newest member of Kumiko's family-for-hire business. To find his daughters, Tetsuzo must go through Kumiko's service.

Though tied to Suicide Club, Noriko's Dinner Table is strong enough to stand on its own. Lacking the gore of its predecessor, Noriko's Dinner Table shows Sono's skill as a filmmaker and storyteller, allowing him to produce this adult fairy tale that is as beautifully abstract as a David Lynch film. The film's acting is solid, and every detail, including the music, adds to this nearly three-hour masterpiece.

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