After flirting with genre in courtroom drama The Third Murder, which bowed at Venice last year, Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda—a regular face at Cannes since the early 2000s—made a return to familiar ground, not to mention a quick turnaround, with his new film Shoplifters. Having said that, Shoplifters isn’t quite what it appears at first glance: dealing with a family of petty criminals who live on the breadline, it slowly reveals its secrets, gradually building to a surprising climax in the final stretch of its beautifully judged two-hour running time.
“It takes place in downtown Tokyo,” the director told Deadline, “and it’s about this particular family who suffers from poverty and lives off of committing crime. So, it’s a very peculiar family.” The inspiration, he continued, came from an earlier project in 2013. “I’d made a film called Like Father, Like Son,” he said, “in which I explored what makes a family: is it blood, or is it the time we spend together as family? In this film, I further that notion. It’s about whether we can form a family beyond blood relations…So that was kind of a jumping off point, the first thought I had. And then in addition, as we suffer from an increasing recession in Japan, there have been incidents that relate to poverty.”
Regulars at Cannes might note that, as with Like Father, Like Son, Shoplifters bears more than a passing resemblance to 2004’s Nobody Knows, in which a single, unemployed mother abandons her children. “Well, I would say that apart from the story—let’s put the story aside—what I was conscious of is that both of those films are what we call in Japan ‘home dramas,’ which means family dramas that take place in homes. So, they fall into that same genre, I guess. But for the last five or six years I’ve been telling stories from a more intimate point of view; and with this film, I went back to a more wider point of view—exploring not just the individuals of the family, but the family within the society. The relationship of the family and the society, and the friction that arises because of that. And that kind of wide point of view is something that I had when I made Nobody Knows. So, in that way, they are similar.”
See what else Kore-eda had to say in the video here.