Cross-referencing the name Tadanobu Asano, while walking into the theatre at TIFF to watch his latest, tells me that his films and I have crossed paths fifteen times. He is hardly my favourite Japanese actor with names like Hara Setsuko, Chishu Ryu, Sugimura Haruko, Yu Aoi, Kase Ryo, Ayase Haruka and Mifune Toshiro taking precedence, but he is arguably the best-known Japanese actor in Canada, and elsewhere outside Japan, given his role in the Thor movies and the nonsensical American version of 47 Ronin. He is a good actor nonetheless whose impassive mannerism is likely his trademark by now. These facts are coincidental given how he starred in another premier at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 in a film called Journey To The Shore and that he is again strong and impassive at another premier at TIFF in 2016 with Harmonium (Fuchi Ni Tatsu in Japanese or 'Standing On The Edge' a name which has a literal meaning here). This is why the above is interesting because he fits his role here quite well. The film germinated in the writer/director's mind in 2006 and began to become reality three years ago. Whereas in Journey To The Shore Asano intruded upon his own family, this year in Fukada Koji's North American premier the actor does the same to a friend's family. The said man, with whom he shares a past, the attention-starved clueless and Christian wife and their daughter are average and unwanting until the arrival of the impassive new character sows the seeds of change and shatters the still. As audience members we are primed for a surprise of course and it does arrive, albeit clocking at two hours and being characteristically Japanese of a film the turn is not upon us ever too swiftly or completely. Shot mainly in Tokyo, Harmonium - which won some kind of an award at Cannes if anyone cares - is as eccentric a family drama as the bedlam that is Tokyo Sonata and, given all its coincidences, as unlikely as the aforementioned Journey To The Shore, but still leaves one interested in the here and now for itself and for other works by Fukada in the future. Before the film began rolling the director was on stage hoping the audience would still be there once the movie had ended and he would be back on stage again for Q&A and deservedly his wish came true. Nonetheless, he is Japanese and those looking for definitive conclusions may be disappointed - not to mention how the director himself claimed to be unaware of the solution to the intriguing ending.
Toshio hires Yasaka in his workshop. This old acquaintance, who has just been released from prison, begins to meddle in Toshio's family life.
June 15, 2020