Friday, October 19, 2018

Shoplifters: The Universal Art of Stealing

By José Alberto Hermosillo

A Hyper-Realistic Japanese heart-tearing Masterwork. Unforgettable!

This year’s Palme d’Or winner, “Shoplifters” (2018) by Hirokazu Koreeda (“Nobody Knows,” “Like Father, Like Son”), is a transcendental morality-crime-drama where family bonding matters.

“Shoplifters” can be linked to other considerable classic creations about the same subject as the Italian Neo-realistic production “Bicycle Thieves/Ladri di Biciclette” (1948) by Vittorio de Sica. Robert Bresson’s French New Wave “Pickpocket” (1951). Even more recently, the cannibal-horror Mexican flick “Somos lo que hay/We Are What We Are” (2010) by Jorge Michel Grau and the 2015 Argentinian time-period family-gangster-drama “The Clan” by Pablo Trapero.

Those highly intriguing films presented a family of crooks working together towards one goal – to illegally provide the group with goods that their living conditions can’t affordFamilyly complicity is imperative, and their modus-operandi is similar. They naively think that there is nothing wrong in their doing, even though their crimes include petty theft, kidnappings, ng, and, in some cases... murder.
“Shoplifters” starts when a young man, in complicity with his father, enters a store to steal goods. Their action plan includes hand signals, body language, and gracious escape.

Over dinner, the older and prettier “sister” complains about why they forgot to steal the shampoo. The “grandmother” is an excellent cook and astutdeal-makerer. 
The “wife” is tired but still has the energy to find out what’s going on with the little girl that the father and their hot-shot “son” found in a cold alley. 

They want to do the right thing and take the little girl to her rightful parents. Soon, they discover that the girl has some bruised from domestic violence. Without knowing the legal implications, they bring her home, change her look, and treat her as their “daughter.”

“Shoplifters” reaches universality by presenting a blue-collar family who can’t achieve actual economic goals with hard work in their part-time jobs. Consequently, they go out and ravish goods they can’t afford. Remember, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” 

The controversy centers on Japanese morality and the image they present to the world as a developed nation while some of its people still live in deficit, isolation, and poverty. 
“Shoplifters” is a monumental work of art with captivating performances, sharp cinematography, a well-structured script detailing every character’s background to perfection, and a convincing resolution. The film’s pace progresses the story flawlessly quickly due to its skillful editing.
Venerable actress Kirin Kiki (“After the Storm,” “Still Walking,” “Kamikaze Girls”) does a terrific job playing the grandmother. Sadly, three months after her return from Cannes 2018, she died as a cancer victim.

Actor Lily Franky (“Scoop!,” “Blank 13,” “Like Father, Like Son”) plays the head of the family, Osamu Shibata, who naively teach his children the art of stealing. The mother, Nobuyo Shibata, fiercely performed by actress Sakura Andó (“Love Exposure,” “100 Yen Love,” “0.5 Mn”), rounds up the terrific cast.

The Hirokazu Kore-eda latest film scoops on the truthfulness of family lessons, questioning who is the right person for another and who is not. What makes a parent? The one who gives birth, or the one who raises the children accordingly...  ironically speaking.
“Shoplifters” presents a cold world where everybody is looking for affection. However, the unconventional actions that break them apart make the family’s love questionable.

Hirokazu Koreeda, director. Film critic José Alberto Hermosillo
The harsh reality presented in the film is accentuated by the characters’ wrongdoings, betrayals, and disjointed affairs, questioning the concepts of loyalty, love, and self-respect in a desolate and dark universe.
“Shoplifters” is the Japanese Official Entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards® and, without a doubt, is a sure contender to reach an Oscar® nomination this year.

“Shoplifters” is amusing, unforgettable, and heartbreaking. For some audiences are hard to connect the actions and relationships of every character in the film due to the cryptic, opaque, and at the same time, complex emotions reflected in the story.


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  1. Bicycle Thieves/Ladri di Biciclette?

    1. Yes!