The Dark Corner of the Shelves (Tana no Sumi)
Yasuo's wife left him eight years ago for a younger man. He always wondered why she left him so abruptly. Was it because he neglected her? But why also abandon her child, Tsuyoshi? That's unforgivable. One day, she comes to his toy store and buys an old toy in a dark corner of the store. She wanted to secretly get a glimpse of her child. Neither Yasuo or his wife have found closure for their brake-up and by slowly renewing contact they will find what they needed to go on with their life.
This is a nice little movie with a very simple story. The pace might be a little too slow (even for a Japanese movie!) and more should have been clearly said or shown about the past life of the characters instead of leaving the guesswork to the viewers -- but that's probably part of the charm of this movie, I guess. Very little is said among the characters, but a lot seems understood. For example: Yasuo never told his new wife Hideko that he got the visit of his previous wife, Yoko, but when she sees her hanging around the store, she seems to have understood who she was and why she was there. But she is a little worried that Yoko is there to claim back her son, Tsuyoshi.
It seems to me that this movie is denouncing the unfortunate lack of communication and affection is some Japanese couples. Most women will not do anything about it and suffer silently, some will have the courage to leave and try to rebuild their life -- like Yoko -- and a few, like Hideko, will show a great understanding and will know how to say things when it really matters. Hideko really appears as the real heroine of the story and a fine example of the modern Japanese women. No wonder, both the original novel and the script were written by women.
The most disappointing aspect of this movie is the photography which is often too dark and sometimes grainy -- it is difficult to say if this is due to the inexperience of the director or simply to poor projection conditions... (I was told that the Dvd available for viewing in the press room was not dark, so it must have been a bad print or a projection problem).
Screened on 2007/08/27 at 19:40 in the Quartier Latin 16. The theatre was three-quarter full (about fifty people).
Reviewed by Claude J. Pelletier