Sunday, 21 October 2012

'Haru comes down from the second floor' (Gravity’s Clowns commentary)

Haru (Okada Masaki) came down from the second floor

I got a new favourite song a few days ago, called ‘Sometimes’ by S.R.S., an indie Japanese music group. The song was the OST for ‘Gravity’s Clowns/Juryoku Pierrot’, a 2009 movie starring among others my favourite Okada Masaki. It was another beautiful movie of Masaki’s which showed his maturing acting skill back three years ago. 

In the movie directed by Mori Junichi, Masaki was paired with Kase Ryo, a very talented actor 15 years older than Masaki, and Kohinata Fumiyo – a very impressive veteran actor – as his father, Mr Okuno. The story was based on a 2006 novel titled ‘A Pierrot’ written by Isako Kotara and was translated into the wide screen by Aizawa Tomoko. Watch it online here.

The movie plot revolved around a dark family secret that was kept away from the two Okuno brothers (Ryo as Izumi and Masaki as Haru) until the death of their mother. Along the way, the movie introduced us to several arson cases all over the city of Sendai, some random graffiti, a female stalker and a chronic rapist let loose. The seemingly unrelated events came together after the Okuno boys discovered that the arsonist left a series of clue in the form of DNA codes. 

This deep movie is made deeper by the fact that the story was set in Sendai, one of the places obliterated by the Tohoku (east Japan) earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.

Click here for the cool English version of ‘Sometimes’. The Japanese version and the spoilers for the movie are under the cut.

Nature versus nurture. That is the major theme for ‘Gravity’s Clown’ or Juryoku Pierrot. This movie opened with Haru (Okada Masaki) beckoning his older brother to come with him to rescue a girl from a rape attempt. The way Haru said ‘rape’ shivered me, for he was almost emotionless in saying so. But then, I was treated with a cool scene where Haru jumped down from the second floor and beaten up the to-be-rapists with his baseball bat. Then I was surprised again when the girl thanked Haru, for he basically pushed her tummy with the baseball bat and said that he didn’t save her because of her. 

Izumi's (Kase Ryo) MS Word screen cap

The movie then switched to Izumi, Haru’s older brother. The two brothers can’t be more different; one is so simple and almost forgettable, the other one is dashingly cute. The older one is a biomolecular student, the younger one is a Gandhi-quoting artist. Yet, they loved each other and were always there for each other. When they were little, they insisted to dress in similar fashion. When Izumi broke his left leg and got a cast, Haru wrapped his own uninjured left leg to have the same cast as his brother’s. Their names even have the same English meaning: Spring (Izumi=fountain, spring; Haru=spring, the season before summer).

The Okuno brothers, screen cap

Despite the common opinion that Izumi was jealous of Haru (what with the little brother being super cute and charming), Izumi rarely displayed such a feeling. Instead, it was plain obvious he loved his lil brother. Both brothers came down to the village where their father lived to commemorate the day their mother died years ago. Their father loved them too. It was the picture of a perfect family, sans the mother.

When the boys were lounging after the dinner, they watched news on another arson attack. The arsonist never made big damage; all fires were easily put out. However, it still was a disturbing trend. Later, Haru would point out that the arson sites were always in close proximity to the graffiti sites. He knew it because he had a paid work to clean up the graffiti, thus he was familiar with the neighbourhood.

At first, Izumi couldn’t care less about the graffiti and arson cases. Their father was admitted to the hospital, apparently for cancer, and it worried both boys. However, Haru still insisted that they investigated the arson sites together. Later, Izumi realised that the first letters of the graffiti arts formed DNA sequences. But what does it mean? What was the relationship between DNA and graffiti?

The second last graffiti, screen cap

 The answer could be found 24 years ago when Mrs Okuno (Suzuki Kyoka) was home alone with baby Izumi. At that unfortunate day, she was raped by a high school student and was pregnant because of that. The culprit was actually a serial rapist who raped 30 women (including Mrs Okuno) before he was captured. Later, he was just sentenced to jail for five years (can’t believe how easy someone with such a crime got away with his crime!) and would much later return to Sendai.

Meanwhile, Mrs Okuno – understandingly – couldn’t decide whether to abort or keep the foetus inside her. Her kind husband solved the problem. ‘Have [the baby],’ he said to his wife. ‘Have it, and we will raise it together.’

Mr Okuno kept his words. He moved his family out of their old house (to get rid of the painful memories, I suppose) and settled in a village house. They would later develop bee farming, first as a hobby, then as a post-retirement occupation. Both parents raised Izumi and Haru with the same intensity of love. No one ever treated Haru differently from Izumi. 

Izumi (Kase Ryo) and Haru (Okada Masaki) listening to their father's story

However, the secret was common knowledge to the city folks. Haru is the only one in the family that can paint – beautifully, that is. This fact became an issue when, as a little boy, he won the gold prize of a local competition. A jealous young mother stated how weird it was to have no one but Haru in the Okuno family who had the traits of an artist. That was when Haru started to question his origin. 

Nevertheless, the secret was always kept from the boys. That is until their mother died when Haru was in high school. Mr Okuno told his boys about the truth, emphasizing that no matter what happened, he loved Izumi and Haru the same way. 

Back to the arson case; Izumi finally cracked the identity of the arsonist at about 2/3 of the movie. SPOILERS below, so do stop here if you don’t want to know about it.



The arsonist’s identity was a brilliant scenario that might still be kept hidden, but for Natsuko, a female stalker who used to follow Haru everywhere. The boys named this girl Natsuko, the summer child. Natsu means summer, and natsu/summer always follows haru/spring. Subtle, eh? One day, Natsuko tipped Izumi of the true identity of the arsonist. 

Haru being cute, screen cap

Yes, it was Haru himself. Apparently, Mr Okuno’s disclosure of Haru’s true origin had marred the boy. He had always questioned his origin. His father’s story and the subsequent return of the serial rapist to Sendai ignited his passion for revenge. To cleanse the rape sites, he set fire at 30 cases where the rapes used to take place. Haru never had a paid work to clean the graffiti. He left graffiti with DNA clues as his way to tell his scientist brother that the graffiti was linked to a case of heredity origin. The day after Natsuko talked to Izumi, Haru called his brother. The younger boy stated that he ‘found’ another graffiti, which means another fire would start soon.

Izumi realised that Haru meant business when he saw the last graffiti: ‘Get Attacked’. When linked with the second last graffiti (‘Unforgiven’), the second last and the last graffiti formed the ‘stop codon’ (UGA), the end of a genetic sequence. Izumi realised that Haru wanted to get his revenge, and his victim is the serial rapist caught 24 years ago. The serial rapist who was also Haru’s biological father. The older brother ran to the only place Haru could have chosen to end the drama: their old house. There, he found that the house was on fire, and his brother was in the middle of the house with the serial rapist. Haru was carrying the ‘Michael Jordan’ bat given by his father as a birthday gift years ago: he was about to end everything there. 

Haru meant business

Izumi broke the window, inviting Haru’s attention. The younger boy were having a conversation with the rapist, who disgustingly denied that what he had done 24 years ago was a despicable act. The rapist even stated that without him Haru would have not been alive; so Haru should be grateful for what he did to the boy’s mother. When Haru started to burn the house, the rapist got scared and said that he was Haru's father (so the boy shouldn't hurt him). Haru snickered and said that the only father he knew had cancer (referring to Mr Okuno).

At that time, the window broke. Haru turned around to see Izumi, not a slight of question or judgement in his brother’s eyes. Haru smiled, turned back towards his biological father, and started beating him up until the rapist couldn’t wake up anymore.

The next morning witnessed Mr Okuno, already accepting his imminent demise due to cancer, attending to his bees. He found his two boys sleeping in the living room. He also found that Haru’s baseball bat was now charred. The radio aired the latest news about a house on fire in Sendai City the previous night. A man was found dead inside the uninhabited house.

Mr Okuno sensed that something was amiss.
Always the good father, he nicely but firmly asked what his boys had been doing, what kind of terrible thing they hid from him. Neither Izumi or Haru admitted anything. When Mr Okuno held Haru’s hand and asked the question again, with his puppy eyes, Haru said he did nothing wrong. Haru’s other hand was tugging his own lips as he said so. Seeing this, Mr Okuno smiled. 

‘Haru always tugs his lips when he’s lying,’ he said to Izumi. Then, gazing fondly at his youngest son, he added, ‘You take after me. You are a lousy liar.’

The Okuno family watching a clown defying gravity

Apparently, nurture wins here. Haru’s biological father was the rapist. But Haru’s father in every real sense is Mr Okuno; and his education of life stuck with Haru. Mr Okuno never forced his sons to tell him what happened. I think he arrived at the conclusion that he could trust his boys with no reservations. He died a while later, leaving his boys attending to the bees, their own lives and the memories they cherished together. One of such memories was when the whole family (including Mrs Okuno) went to see Richie the Clown. Young Haru was worried that Richie wouldn’t be able to swing on his trapeze. His mother reassured him as such: 

 ‘If he’s having that much fun, he won’t fall. And if he does, he’ll be just fine.’ When Izumi asked why, his father said, ‘When you make your life fun, gravity goes away.’

His mother smiled and added, ‘Soon, we might all just float up into the air.’

That was what the boys were doing later. They started to live their lives again. They made honey out of the bees, resuming their father's side business. Haru quoted Gandhi again. And when he saw Natsuko – the female stalker – still stalking him behind the bush, he smiled and jumped from the second floor.

Haru smiling agan, screen cap

Gravity’s Clowns is a movie where you question the common definition of right and wrong. I’m not referring to the act of rape here; to me every sane person would condemn that action. I am referring to Haru’s response to the new knowledge that his biological father was a rapist, the one who showed no remorse at that. I understand that starting fire is a crime, and I can see why Haru wanted to deliver himself to the police afterwards. But I agree with what Izumi said: Haru did nothing wrong. No judge or policeman can judge Haru for beating up the rapist and left him inside the house to die. Heck, if I were there, I would make sure that the boys could leave without any evidence of their presence in that house! (that was why the boys took Haru’s baseball bat home with them, I think). I think the bastard rapist deserved what he got last night. Only five years for a serial rape? I would say he deserved life sentence! 

I love all the cast here. I love the mother and the father (Kohinata). I love Kase Ryo as the big brother Izumi. I of course love Masaki’s maturing act here; he and Ryo developed such a good bromance here. I didn’t realise that Masaki has paired up with Kohinata-san in four movies/TV series. The first one was Homeroom on the Beachside (2007) where Kohinata played the devil’s advocate Principal. The second one was this one, Juryoku Pierrot (2009). The third one was in Seinaru Kaibutsutachi (2012), where Masaki played a sincere young doctor and Kohinata the greedy hospital director. The fourth one was in Taira no Kiyomori (2012) where Masaki played as Minamoto no Yoritomo and Kohinata played his grandfather, Minamoto no Tameyoshi (there was no scene where Yoritomo met Tameyoshi tho).

I love Gravity's Clowns. I love it so much; I want to buy the English-subbed DVD. It’s very expensive tho, I’m not sure it’s a wise move. We do have the English-subbed movie in WAT, but I don’t know if it’s ever going to be there. I don’t know how to download these movies; been trying to do that to no avail. So perhaps, I will buy the DVD anyway one day.

Above is the Japanese version of 'Sometimes', the movie soundtrack. Here you can buy the English-subbed Blu-Ray and the English-subbed DVD.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just saw this fiLm, and I Love it, too! Ryo Kase didn't Look Like he's 15 years oLder than Masaki, if peopLe teLL me they're onLy 2 years apart I wouLd totaLLy beLieve them ^^;
The quote in the circus scene made me cry and smiLe in seconds. And Sometimes is awesome. Awesome fiLm.