Aristocrats: A feminist work of insane grace [critique]

Yukiko Sode explores the place of women in today’s Japanese society. A great success

The presence of female directors in the history – past and present – of Japanese cinema is almost nil. We recently discovered, flabbergasted, the brief but isolated work of Kinuyo Tanaka (six marvels produced between 1953 and 1962). Closer to us, the name Naomi Kawase is, we guess, a tree that does not hide much. The arrival of Yukiko Sode, 39, with this magnificent Aristocrats which is already the third feature film, is an event in itself. The film adapted from a novel by Mariko Yamauchi, precisely examines the place of women in Japanese society, prisoners according to their social class of a determined pattern of life.

We follow here the itinerary of Hanako (Mugi Kadowaki), 30 years old and still single, which is an aberration when one is like her from the Tokyo upper class. So Hanoko searches and finds a good man, who looks a bit like her. It remains to prove himself to a beautiful family who, during a ceremony of exemplary rigidity, already place barriers between the two lovers. At the center of the game, there is also the provincial Miki (Kiko Mizuhara), a young woman a priori more free because of a lower class. She too will have to prove herself. Far from oversimplifying things, the scenario probes with finesse the flaws of the characters and tracks down their possible emancipation. It also demonstrates that it is together, hand in hand, that women will be able to overcome an incorrigible patriarchy.

With crazy gentleness and grace, Sode brings together all these characters in a Tokyo compartmentalized from the inside where everyone is looking for their place and above all a shoulder to face a reality devoid of perspectives.

By Yukiko Sodé. With: Mugi Kadowaki, Kiko Mizuhara, Kengo Kora… Duration: 2h05. Released March 30, 2022

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