Noriko's Dinner Table
English Title: Noriko's Dinner Table
Original Title: Noriko no shokutaku
Country of Origin: Japan
Studio: Mother Ark Co.
Director: Sion Sono
Producer(s): Takeshi Suzuki
Screenplay: Sion Sono
Cinematographer: Sohei Tanikawa
Art Director: Toru Fujita
Editor: Junichi Ito
Runtime: 159 min. minutes
Genre: Cult film
Seventeen-year-old Noriko, who with her frumpy clothes, thick-rimmed glasses, a slouch, seems like someone who would rather spend time with her computer than with her classmates, runs away from her suburban home in the Aichi prefecture in the hope of finding the administrator-guru of haikyo.com, a BBS for angst-ridden teenage girls. In Tokyo, Noriko, who now goes by her screen-name of Mitsuko, meets her web-pal Ueno54, who goes by her presumably real name, Kumiko. She manages The Family Circle, a bizarre gang of ‘actors’ who rent themselves out to men whose wives and children have left them, grandmothers whose offspring do not properly appreciate them, and psychotics who want the ultimate revenge on their cheating girlfriends. Soon, after Noriko joins the troupe, 54 members act out their assigned roles by jumping in front of a speeding train from a platform in Shinjuku Station. After Noriko’s sister Yuka follows her to Tokyo, Noriko’s father, a journalist for a local publication, afraid that his daughters might be part of a suicide craze, tracks the girls to the big city and contrives to hire them. The finale, a kind of Grand Guignol family therapy session, involves very big butcher knives...and lots of blood and tears.
The production of the project echoed the volatility and precariousness of Noriko's journey. Sono and Tanikawa shot the logistically complex feature with mini-DV cameras and a tiny crew, on a micro-budget, in only two weeks. The resulting film, nonetheless, feels more tonally unified than Suicide Club. Surely one of the wonders of the filmmaking here is that Sono and his team were able to combine the vapidity of the high school girl’s diary and the excess of the gore-fest into such a perfectly modulated lyrical poem.
Author of this review: Robert W. Davis