A Story of Yonosuke

横道世之介 (Japan, 2013)
North American Premiere
Co-Presentation with JAPAN CUTS
160 minutes, Blu-Ray, in Japanese with English subtitles
Directed by: Shuichi Okita
Starring: Kengo Kora, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ayumi Ito, Tasuku Emoto

Based on the novel by bestselling author Shuichi Yoshida, YONOSUKE is an ode to good humor and optimism in movies. Told with an inquisitive determination, the tale is a smart, indolent saunter through Japan’s recent past that goes about its business of showing the simple act of getting on with your life, with its cluster of silly mistakes and small acts of kindness, with patience and refinement. The titular hero of the film, Yonosuke (Kengo Kora), is a seemingly ordinary Japanese student, both a simple soul and a force of nature that left a long-lasting impact on the lives of his college friends, as is shown in flash forwards that unveil a present flooded by the past. As his story unfolds, a portrait of late ’80s Japan, sketched with minimum fuss, appears in the easy, unperplexed swing of the picture.

Yonosuke is first seen as a college freshman in bubble-era Tokyo, a time when Japan is booming and the economy is raining cash; “a dream-bright Japan”, as Nabokov would say. Newly arrived from the countryside, he comes across as a comical, childlike optimist in a world of grumps. But his blend of spontaneous congeniality and unwavering self-assurance make him more than just a passive waif: the almost unbearably likable young man turns out to be remarkably adept at meeting people, making friends and influencing others. He effortlessly finds his place at the university samba club and earns himself a small group of friends.

He also unwittingly charms femme fatale Chiharu (Ayumi Ito), at the hotel where he is working part-time as a bellboy. Like many people he charmed before her, their paths will cross again. The central encounter of the film, its core drama (in a film perfectly poised between farce and sentiment) is with Shoko (Yuriko Yoshitaka), the prim-and-proper, bubbly daughter of a wealthy family. She first treats Yonosuke as an exotic social curiosity, a source of amusement, but soon starts to see him in a more romantic light, despite the status chasm. The romance between the two develops like everything else in the story: in synch with the odd rhythm of long-range wonder, which is in fact the pace at which most of us conduct our lives. The basic pulse of the film rids it of easy melodrama and draws it close to life.

Saturday July 13, 12:30PM Japan Society Buy Tickets