Tuesday, August 01, 2006

2005 in review: #12

12. Nobody Knows (Hirokazu Kore-eda)

B-side: L’Esquive (Abdellatif Kechiche)

Since THE 400 BLOWS- and even before it- the cinema has unspooled countless tales of youth in the big city. Whereas a country upbringing is usually portrayed as warm and pastoral, the city is full of perils, and children have to be both crafty and lucky to avoid falling victim to them. These two films were 2005’s best films about youth confronted with city life.

NOBODY KNOWS is a naturalistic account, inspired by a true story, of four siblings who were abandoned in Tokyo by their single mother. Having no one to count on but each other (being discovered by the landlord means eviction, and if the cops find out they’ll be separated), they must be creative in order to survive. L’ESQUIVE (released in the U.S. as GAMES OF LOVE AND CHANCE) happily takes place under less dire circumstances- the protagonists’ parents are still around, and the kids are somewhat older. However, its characters face their share of difficulties, not the least of which is puberty, which all the anxieties that implies.

While Kore-eda’s film maintains a certain distance from its story- which benefits the film in my opinion, since to rub our faces in it might turn it into a sensationalistic wallow- Kechiche plunges his camera into the lives playing out onscreen, keenly observing every uncomfortable classroom session and every swarm of girls that overwhelms the film’s protagonist. While the approaches seem to be quite different, both are decidedly un-Hollywood, and as a result both films are far more effective than more conventional versions of them would be.

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