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Noriko’s Dinner Table 
Written by: on September 18th, 2008

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2005
Director: Sion Sono
Writer: Sion Sono
Cast: Kazue Fukiishi, Tsugumi, Ken Mitsuishi, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Shirô Namiki, Sanae Miyata, Toru Tezuka, Usamaru Furuya, Yoko Mitsuya, Tamae Ando, Yûya Ishikawa, Sayako Nakoshi, Naoko Watanabe

DVD released: May 27th, 2008
Approximate running time: 159 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
Subtitles: English
DVD Release: Bone House Asia/Tidepoint Pictures
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95

Synopsis: Tetsuzo Shimabara is reporter who loses sight of what is important in life. He fails to recognize his two daughters’ unhappiness before they run away. Broken hearted Tetsuzo quits his job as a reporter and uses his investigating skills to find his missing daughters. Tetsuzo’s wife riddled with guilt over the loss her children commits suicide. With the clues his daughters left behind Tetsuzo is able to piece together their last known moments before they disappeared. His investigations lead him to a woman named Kumiko.

After the success of Suicide Club director Sion Sono would write a novel based on the film. As he progressed with the project the novel would evolve into a completely new story that he would loosely link with Suicide Club. After completing this novel titled Suicide Circle: the Complete Edition he would embark on a feature from of the novel titled Noriko’s Dinner Table.

The plot for Noriko’s Dinner Table revolves around four characters. The films main character is a seventeen year old girl named Noriko who feels trapped in her current life. Under the user name Mitsuko she meets on a message board another like minded person who goes by the username Ueno Station 54. One evening during a blackout Noriko gets the courage to run away to Tokyo. Once in Tokyo she finally comes face to face with Ueno Station 54 whose is a young woman who goes by the name Kumiko.

Kumiko has her own bagged as a young child she was abandoned by her mother who left in locker number 54 at the Ueno Train Station. Ever since she was a young child she has been collecting things that have been discarded by others and inventing memories to go along with the objects. In many ways her taking Noriko under her wing after she arrives in Tokyo gives her the chance to mold a human being and their past like she has inanimate objects her whole life. Kumiko through the internet has been collecting week minded people like Noriko. She even organized the fifty-four girl’s subway suicide. On the side she runs a family rental business where she and those who she takes in play the parts of dead or missing family members. Kumiko creates new memories through these jobs that she goes on. She also uses these jobs to help her brainwash girls like Noriko.

Another key player in this story is Noriko’s younger sister Yuka who follows her sister down the same path. They both come from a home that is almost devoid of joy. Their parents are oblivious to Noriko and Yuka’s need for affection from them. The film other main player is Tetsuzo Noriko and Yuka’s. Out of all of the characters he goes through the biggest transformation after his daughters run away and his wife Taeko kills herself. When the story first begins he is an overbearing father who refuses to let Noriko go to college in Tokyo because two of her cousins became pregnant while going to school there.

Loneliness and suicide are the two elements that most like Noriko’s Dinner Table with its predecessor Suicide Club. Some of the footage from Suicide Club is used in Noriko’s Dinner Table. The tone of Noriko’s Dinner Table while gut wrenching depressing the films as whole is not as graphic or violent as Suicide Club. It is kind of appropriate that Noriko’s Dinner Table is a dialog heavy film since all the characters in the film are unable to express their feelings and communicate with each other. At just over two and half hours Noriko’s Dinner Table is an engrossing story that builds up to an unforgettable ending. The line from the film best sums up the film. “The only way to figure out what we can be… is to lie openly and pursue emptiness.” Ultimately Noriko’s Dinner Table is Sion Sono’s most accomplished film to date.

The DVD:

Noriko’s Dinner Table is presented in an anamorphic widescreen. The source sued for this transfer is in great shape with nicely saturated colors, natural looking flesh tones and strong black levels throughout. Some of the films darker scenes lack the detail present in the lighter scenes. Even though the transfer is interlaced the image remains stable with no major issues with blurring or ghosting.

This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital stereo mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included. The audio is free of any defects, sounds evenly balanced and clear throughout.

Extras for this release include director Sion Sono’s introduction to the film in Japanese with English subtitles (35 seconds), Noriko’s Dinner Table original Japanese language trailer with English subtitles (2:05), a interview with Sion Sono in Japanese with English subtitles (14:30), and “The Making of Noriko’s Dinner Table” (31:24) in Japanese with English subtitles. In the interview with Sion Sono he discusses the differences between Noriko’s Dinner Table to his previous film Suicide Club. He also talks about the current state of Japanese cinema and about working in other countries for future projects. Another subject that he talks about is the influence that directors like John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese and Rainer Werner Fassbinder have had on him. The making of documentary mostly consist of behind the scenes footage and some comments from the cast and crew. Also included with this release are trailers for other Tidepoint Pictures titles like Late Bloomer, Taking Father Home and Dear Pyongyang. Overall Noriko’s Dinner Table gets a strong DVD release from Tidepoint Pictures.

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