Noriko's Dinner Table

"Good"

Noriko's Dinner Table Review


In 2002, Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono reacted to his country's high suicide rate with a cult horror classic called Suicide Club. Roughly three years later, Sono introduced this sequel, the second part of his planned trilogy. A 2-hour, 40-minute curiosity, Noriko revolves around the same concept, as Sono trades terror for emotional despair using the same horrifying sequence as a focal point.

That scene is relived about 30 minutes in as teenage Noriko, the girl narrating the film's first chapter, says over a black screen "Then, that happened." That is a mass suicide conducted by 57 uniformed schoolgirls who leap simultaneously onto a Tokyo subway track in the world's 2nd-busiest train station.

Rather than fill the sequel with more acts of blood and death, Sono tells the story of a family peripherally affected by the event. Noriko lives with her parents and younger sister Yuka in Tokoyama (Sono's hometown, by the way), longing to shed her shy exterior in the big city, away from her father's provincial, conservative thinking. Noriko (Kazue Fukiishi) sits quietly at dinner, narrating her father's fears that all young women heading to Tokyo meet city boys and get pregnant.

With a dropped chin and sad eyes, Fukiishi draws us in to Noriko's restrictive world, where her only joy is IMing Tokyo girls on a cryptic website. Desperate to be "connected" to her life and herself -- a common theme in the film -- Noriko runs away to meet her online friends in Tokyo. In a later chapter, her more outgoing sister follows suit.

The central character in each act -- first Noriko, then Yuka, etc. -- narrates her own story, so we get multiple points of view as the film progresses. An effective tension lurks beneath the surface of the first couple chapters since we can't determine the storytellers' locations. Where are they narrating from? Perhaps Noriko and Yuka participated in the subway suicide and are telling their story from the beyond; with a variety of styles and a layered flashback narrative, Sono doesn't let us discount the idea.

Either way, the sisters get involved in a bizarre business, a sort of prostitution for the emotionally stunted. With an experienced online friend nicknamed Ueno54 (Tsugumi), a cadre of young girls act as family members to lonely people lacking their own. Soon, Noriko and Yuka are brainwashed to believe they're not actually blood sisters; then they're paid to act like they are, just to please sad, single men craving company at dinnertime.

In these bizarre set pieces, Sono pulls and pushes at his characters' emotions, and some of it rings false. Noriko and Yuka admired each other enough to enjoy their sisterhood, so their willingness to ignore it appears inconsistent. The film has instances of disaffected girls doing anything to fit into this odd society -- including risking life -- but Sono doesn't show enough of Noriko's transformation in this "club" for us to buy into it.

Once the girls' father (Ken Mitsuishi, Audition) begins searching for them, Noriko Dinner's Table becomes part investigative mystery, part cultist drama, and you can pretty much guess where it's all going. Sion Sono's artistic touch does bring depth to many scenes, but the more emotional sequences are overwrought to the point of melodrama. I know this is commonplace in many Asian films, but it's tougher to swallow when a lack of character development gets us there.

Aka Noriko no shokutaku.



Noriko's Dinner Table

Facts and Figures

Run time: 159 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 23rd September 2006

Distributed by: Tidepoint Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Sion Sono

Producer: Takeshi Suzuki

Starring: Kazue Fukiishi as Noriko Shimabara, Tsugumi as Kumiko - Ueno Station 54, Yuriko Yoshitaka as Yuka Shimabara - Yôko, Shirô Namiki as Ikeda - Tetsuzô's Friend, Sanae Miyata as Taeko Shimabara, Yoko Mitsuya as Tangerine, Tamae Ando as Broken Dam, Naoko Watanabe as Cripple #5, Chihiro Abe as Long Neck, Hanako Onuki as Midnight, Kazumasa Taguchi as Kumiko's 'Father', Takako Kitagawa as Kumiko's 'Mother'

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Advertisement
Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel walked away from his XXX role, killing off...

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.