December 3, 2022

“Shoplifters,” the celebrated 2018 Japanese film from director Hirokazu Kore-Eda, opens Saturday at the Lagoon/Landmark Cinema in uptown Minneapolis.

Ando Sakura, Sasaki Miyu, Jyo Kairi, Lily Franky, Matsuoka Mayu and Kiki Kilin in “Shoplifters,” a Magnolia Pictures release.

“Shoplifters” is the story of a dysfunctional Tolyo family living on the margins as outsiders. Lily Franky, Ando Sakura, Matsuoka Mayu, Kiki Kilin, Jyo Kairi and Sasaki Miyu star as members of the Shibata family, who are united by loyalty, with a penchant for petty theft and playful grifting.

When the young son is arrested, secrets are exposed that upend their tenuous, below-the-radar existence and test their quietly radical belief that it is love — not blood — that defines a family.

An interview with Hirokazu Kore-Eda (courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Hirokazu Kore-eda, director of “Shoplifters.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

You decided to make this film after learning about incidents of families illegally receiving the pensions of parents who had already died years ago. Was your intention to depict a family from a different angle compared to your previous films? 

The first thing that came to my mind was the tagline: “Only the crimes tied us together”. In Japan, crimes like pension frauds and parents making their children shoplift are criticized severely. Of course, these criminals should be criticized but I am wondering why people get so angry over such minor infractions even though there are many lawbreakers out there committing far more serious crimes without condemnation. Especially after the 2011 earthquakes, I didn’t feel comfortable with people saying repeatedly that a family bond is important. So I wanted to explore it by depicting a family linked by crime. 

The theme of this bond is central and other elements are added to it. Can you comment on this? 

I started to think about which elements were unfolded and would be examined deeply after the casting was settled. As a result, this film is packed with the various elements I have been thinking about and exploring these last 10 years. It is the story of what family means, a story about a man trying to be a father, and furthermore, a coming-of-age story of a boy. 

The impoverished family in the film reminds us of “Nobody Knows.” What can you say about the similarity between that film and Shoplifters?

Shoplifters might be similar to Nobody Knows in the sense that this film also explores closely the sort of “punished” families we regularly see in news reports. It wasn’t my intention simply to describe a poor family, or the lower levels of the social strata. I rather think that the family in the film ended up gathering in that house not to collapse there. I wanted to shine a light on such a family from a different angle. 

The later scenes showing the family being split up are heartbreaking. We haven’t seen such anger at social injustice shown so nakedly in your recent films. Can you comment on that?

It’s true, maybe not since Nobody Knows. The core emotion when I was making this film might have been “anger”. Since Still Walking, I have dug desperately deeper and more narrowly into the motif of personal things and after finishing After The Storm, I put the end to this approach of not broadening my vision to society, of minimizing as much as possible. It could be said that I have gone back to where I started. 

Can you tell us why you decided to work with Kondo Ryuto (DP) and composer Hosono Haruomi?

I have always wanted to work with Mr. Kondo as I think he is one of the finest cinematographers currently working in the Japanese movie industry. He has very much a “director’s” point of view, with a deep interpretation of story and character. So it was a good balance that allowed me to focus on directing the actors without having to worry about the cinematography. Before the shoot, I was thinking of this film was kind of a fable and sought ways to find and build poetry within reality. Even if the film was realistic, I wanted to describe the poetry of human beings and both the cinematography and music came close to my vision. As for the music, I have been a fan of Mr. Hosono’s film scores in his previous works so I have always looked for an opportunity to work with him. In this film, his music captures the fantasy side of the story. 

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