Noriko’s Dinner Table (2005, Sion Sono)

I’d heard this was a sequel to Suicide Circle, so I assumed it was a horror movie. A natural assumption, since Suicide Circle is very much a horror movie. But by no means is this a horror movie, nor is it any good at all, and it is almost three hours long, which means I could have watched two short, good horror movies instead of this one. Tragedy!

Lots of steadicam, with the low-budget video look of MPD Psycho. First hour is a bunch of teen girl crap, with Noriko getting tired of her family and wishing she was as accepted in real life as she is online, where her screen name is Mitsuko. The online community is related to the Suicide Circle cult (it’s the website with the colored dots), but besides a couple flashbacks to the intro train scene of that movie, some “Desert” posters on a wall and some dodgy explanations at the end by a group member, there’s no real mention of the events of the other movie. Instead, we are presented with a wholly different view on Sion Sono’s ideas of group and individual identity, life and death, and the social problems of modern Japan. Maybe it’s deep if you think about it long enough, but it doesn’t make for a very interesting movie, with its amateurish cinematography, excessive length and dull repetitive voiceovers about the boring family problems of teen girls.

Happier times. But WERE they really happy? Are the kids smiling? ARE THEY?

So, right, Noriko/Mitsuko runs away and meets her online buddy Ueno Station 54 (named after a locker full of junk she found). That’s #54, as in the 54 kids who jumped from the train station… you can look for explanations all day long, but it’s not gonna solve anything. Noriko’s sister Yuka runs away a few months later, changes her name to Yoko, and the sisters meet up in the city. With US54 they work for a family-rental business pretending to be family members of lonely people for an hourly fee. Meanwhile, their real parents are crazy with grief over their disappeared daughters, and after a year the mother kills herself so the father (Ken Mitsuishi of The Pillow Book, Chaos, Eureka, Audition, Invisible Waves) starts combing their rooms for clues and finally comes to the city to find them.

Death is no big thing in Japan

All is well in the family rental business. Sometimes a client kills a “family member”, as above, but there’s Kumiko/US54 on the left taking his money as if nothing special has happened. The dad gets a friend to help, moves all his stuff from the old house and sets up a new place just like it, then gets the three girls to come over, climactically bursts out of a closet and… stands there like a damned fool. Um, some cult dudes show up and pummel the friend, but dad kills ’em all with a knife. Finally the girls somewhat snap out of it, and go oh yeah it’s our dad. I think Noriko runs away again at the end. I’m probably forgetting something, but whatever.

Separated by sun

– the suicides kept going after the last movie ended… they did not stop with Dessert’s final performance.
– “What about the suicide club – it’s the result of Kumiko’s grudge, right?”
– “The world is the suicide club, with far more suicides than our circle.”
– “Being close to death gives living value”
– Dad is told by a club dude at a diner: “Feel the desert. Survive the desert. That’s your role.” Get it – Desert? Dessert? Get it?? Phthhhht!

What, no floss?

If this was better lit you’d see “Kiyoshi Kurosawa wuz here” on the windowframe