In Masayuki Suo's Abnormal Family, an understanding wife helps her young brother-in-law lose his virginity, puts up with her husband's demand for rough sex and is even willing to wait while her husband sets up house with a dominatrix. Stephen Tan reviews.


Masayuki Suo's Abnormal Family opens with with the elderly father, son and daughter all staring at the ceiling in high anticipation. In what could be described as the family's highlight of the evening, for the three, what follows is the sound of love making between elder son Koichi (Shiro Shimomoto) and his new bride, Yuriko (Kaoru Kaze). For viewers, this is the beginning of the various sex scenes in the movie.

By now, most Japan movie fans, especially those into the Pinku Eiga (Pink Films) sex genre, know that Abnormal Family is a spoof of Ozu's films. Yasujiro Ozu, who died in 1963, is a prominent director of Japanese movies, noted for his themes of family and marriage; use of static shots and his knee-high "tatami" cinematography.

Before Masayuki Suo became an award-winning director with Sumo Do, Sumo Don't (1992) and Shall We Dance? (1996), his first movie, Abnormal Family (1983), practically turned Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953) inside out. Retaining Ozu's family unit, in this case an ageing father, two younger siblings and a married son and his wife, Suo sets up a situation where outwardly the family unit looks like it could have come from an Ozu movie (right down to cinematic style and head-bowing neighbours), inwardly this is the form of familial disintegration that Ozu himself might have feared.

Instead of a traditional family coming under economic stress, here the aged father, Shukichi (Ren Osugi), refuses to accept the death of his wife and comments that every woman he meets looks like his dead wife. And after each evening's "entertainment," he withdraws to a bar and gets drunk.

If elder son Koichi does not spend time with the whole family, at least he has an active sex life. He is penetrating Yuriko every which way that it looks as if he hardly lets his wife get any sleep at night. As a newcomer to the family, Yuriko is deferential to her father-in-law and subservient to her husband, even when he is into S&M and attempts to tie her up. It is not known if Yuriko is into S&M but her one forceful display of her passion comes when she sees the S&M scars on Koichi's back.

Koichi had visited the bar his father frequents and had hooked up with bartender Usagi Aso who is heavily into S&M. The two make such a delightful couple (she urinates on him and he gets high) that Koichi decides to move in with her.

Koichi's younger sister, Akiko (Miki Yamaji), works as the Office Lady, and at first, viewers might have expected the dowdy-looking Akiko to have some hidden strengths. Hearing what her sister-in-law goes through in the evenings and deciding that she would rather be free, she comments that a woman has nothing to look forward to after getting married. However, she gives up her job and works in a sex sauna. As such things are wont to turn out, her first client is her brother Koichi!

Koichi's younger brother, student Kazuo (Kei Shuto), might just be a little bit horny - he keeps staring at sister Akiko's white panties when her dress happens to be hitched a little too high. Trying to prevent Kazuo from getting into sexual problems like indulging in pornography, or worse, visiting prostitutes, Yuriko decides, just once, to give Kazuo the works. So it does pay to have a real understanding sister-in-law.

Ruminating on the loneliness in a marriage, which is very real in her case, Yuriko comes across a piece of rope that Koichi had used to bind her. She then uses the rope to masturbate herself. Meanwhile, dotty father-in-law comments to dead wife what a fine daughter-in-law he has.

At less than an hour, Suo's Abnormal Family is a real tour de farce. The only weak point is Ren Osugi, who looks a little too young to be the somnambulistic aged father. A much older actor would have given the role more gravitas. Still, as one reviewer says, things never get boring.

Note: The Abnormal Family VCD (Unlimited Film Sensation) is banned in $ingapore.

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August 28, 2007


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