David Strat­ton

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews -

In Shoplifters, the Ja­panese win­ner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes ear­lier this year, direc­tor Hirokazu Kore-eda once again fo­cuses his at­ten­tion on a fam­ily unit. In this case, the fam­ily is liv­ing a pre­car­i­ous ex­is­tence on the very fringes of so­ci­ety and yet, though not all of them are blood rel­a­tives, the ties that bind them to­gether are strong and lov­ing. The direc­tor’s de­cep­tively sim­ple treat­ment en­sures that Shoplifters is an un­sen­ti­men­tal heart-warmer of con­sid­er­able charm and in­sight.

The head of this un­con­ven­tional fam­ily is Osamu (Lily Franky), who is oc­ca­sion­ally em­ployed as a con­struc­tion worker. He lives with wife, Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), and his el­derly mother (Kiki Kilin), his teenage daugh­ter, Aki (Mayu Mat­suoka) and what at first ap­pears to be his young son, Shota (Jyo Kairi) — though it grad­u­ally be­comes clear that Shota is not re­ally his son.

In the open­ing se­quence, Osamu and Shota are shop­ping in a lo­cal su­per­mar­ket. As they make mys­te­ri­ous sig­nals to one an­other we re­alise they’re steal­ing as much as they’re ac­tu­ally buy­ing, and that this is how they man­age to live, as oth­er­wise they’d never be able to af­ford what lit­tle they have. Osamu points out that cur­rent “work­share” ar­range­ments mean that jobs are di­vided be­tween sev­eral work­ers; every­one gets a bit of work but “every­one gets a bit poorer by the day”.

The fam­ily mem­bers share too; every­body does their bit. Granny is el­i­gi­ble for a pen­sion, but she also shame­lessly ac­cepts money from the fam­ily of her late ex-hus­band, who re­mar­ried af­ter he left her. Aki is a sex worker; she’s not a pros­ti­tute but she talks and acts dirty to male clients who are kept at arm’s length by a glass win­dow and she makes con­tact with only those she chooses to.

When Osamu and Shota re­turn home from the store one very cold night, they see a lit­tle girl (Miyu Sasaki), aged about four, who has been locked out on to the first-floor bal­cony of her par­ents’ apart­ment. They can hear the par­ents yelling at one an­other be­hind the apart­ment’s thin walls. Osamu takes pity on the child and of­fers her some food; even­tu­ally she goes back with them to their al­ready crowded dwelling. When they see that her body is cov­ered with burns and bruises, they de­cide to keep her, and she’s very happy to stay with them. Her par­ents ap­par­ently don’t re­port her dis­ap­pear­ance, at least not at first; and it’s not kid­nap­ping be­cause, as Osamu jus­ti­fies it, they’re not de­mand­ing a ransom for her.

Soon the girl they name Lin (or “Rin”, depend­ing on the sub­ti­tles on the ver­sion of the film you see) is learn­ing the art of shoplift­ing too. And she’s get­ting more love than she ever had be­fore be­cause ev­ery mem­ber of Osamu’s Shoplifters (Man­biki Ka­zoku) Lim­ited re­lease The Old Man & the Gun (M) Na­tional re­lease Pen­guin High­way (Pen­gin Hai­wei) (PG) Lim­ited re­lease Old Man & The Gun The Pete’s Dragon, 2016; and A Ghost Story, 2017) has writ­ten and di­rected a movie about Tucker’s later ex­ploits. Robert Red­ford, who plays the old crook, has said this will be his last screen role and, if that proves to be the case, The Old Man & The Gun is not a bad way to end a dis­tin­guished ca­reer.

Tucker worked with a cou­ple of part­ners, Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits); the trio be­came known as the Over-the­Hill Gang and their modus operandi was pretty sim­ple. Tucker would am­ble into a small town bank, smartly dressed and brim­ming with charm, ask to see the man­ager, claim that he had a gun, then de­mand all the money from the tell­ers’ coun­ters. Some­times this worked and some­times it didn’t, but there was never any vi­o­lence in­volved.

These brazen thieves come to the at­ten­tion of John Hunt (Casey Af­fleck), a cop who makes it his mis­sion to ar­rest them. Along the way, Tucker forms a re­la­tion­ship with a ma­ture wo­man named Jewel (Sissy Spacek). They meet when he’s mak­ing a getaway af­ter his lat­est rob­bery and he spots her by the road­side in ob­vi­ous need of help be­cause her car has bro­ken down. As he fid­dles un­der the car’s bon­net, the pur­su­ing cops speed past, obliv­i­ous.

Af­ter his bril­liantly con­ceived A Ghost Story, The Old Man & the Gun is a very low-key affair from the al­ways in­ven­tive Low­ery. There are no real sur­prises, the rob­beries are han­dled al­most mat­ter-of-factly and, though there’s plenty of charm in the per­for­mances of the lead ac­tors, the re­sult is a drama that un­folds in a mi­nor key. Low­ery takes a shaggy-dog ap­proach to the ma­te­rial, typ­i­fied by the slyly amus­ing scene in which Waller ex­plains why he’s not a fan of Christ­mas. For mo­ments such as this, the film is ap­peal­ing with­out be­ing es­pe­cially mem­o­rable. The whim­si­cal Ja­panese anime Pen­guin High­way is set in a small town far from the sea. Ay­oyama, the 12-year-old pro­tag­o­nist, is a rather smug kid with an el­e­vated sense of his own ge­nius. A cou­ple of things be­gin to dis­tract him. One is the ar­rival in town of a wo­man, known only as The Lady, who has rather large breasts and who seems to be em­ployed by the lo­cal den­tist.

The other is the ar­rival in town of dozens of pen­guins. While un­able to stop ogling The Lady when­ever she’s around, Ay­oyama and his friends Uchida and Ha­mamoto at­tempt to dis­cover the source of the mys­te­ri­ous pen­guins, and dis­cover that the birds and The Lady are some­how con­nected.

This odd lit­tle story is based on a book and, for an an­i­mated film aimed at pre-teen kids, seems un­usu­ally con­vo­luted and pro­tracted. But, as al­ways with Ja­panese anime, it’s vis­ually a de­light.

Scenes from Ja­panese films Shoplifters, left, and Pen­guin High­way, in­set; and, be­low, Sissy Spacek and Robert Red­ford in

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