Released in Japan 2004, it was chosen to be shown as part of the Japan Foundation’s It Only Happens in The Movies? Japanese Cinema and Encounters touring film festival now. The film was nominated for 12 Japanese Academy Awards and won four, including Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Screenplay.
Set in the 1923, the story is narrated by son Masao who describes his father’s journey from Korea to Japan. A young Kim Shun-Pei moves from Cheju Island (South Korea), to Osaka (Japan). This isn’t an easy transition due to war between the country and despite fighting brothers in arms there is still a lot of hatred between the Japanese and Koreans.
We watch the cruel misdeeds of Kim abusing his wife and children throughout the film. This leads to an inner greed as the violent man decides to destroy a house to make it into a fish cake factory and forces his family to help in slave labouring for him. Even though this provided jobs for the poor Korean-Japanese community he exploits his employees and punishes them for revolts.
He makes a fortune, then takes a mistress and continues to mistreat his former family whenever he is stressed. He shows respect to no one. Later he closes the factory when business declines, becoming a money lender now with help from his mistress becomes a successful loan shark. His evil personality does not change towards even his brother or family. After his mistress develops a brain tumour he shows some human compassion and takes care of her and takes on a maid to look after her full time.
This turns out to be a new mistress as he wants another heir to his wealth. Through much raping he has many illegitimate children who all eventually leaves him. Eventually his daughter marries a man she doesn’t love to escape his abuse and she ends up in an abusive marriage. Sadly she seeks advice from her brother Masao who recommends she leave her husband or quit moaning. Sadly she commits suicide leaving the husband quite happy. This affects Kim who beats up everyone at the funeral.
At this point he is losing his physical strength and mind, he carries on his mean life even after he kills his terminally ill mistress ad the second mistress leaves him. He seeks consolation from his wife who he left for dead after she developed cancer, she recoils and dies eventually too.
I left the cinema screening feeling sad as no one got a happy ending. Masao moves away and only the uncle and his wife survive. the poetic cousin moves back to Korea and is never heard from again. Great acting from the cast especially Beat Takeshi. Catch the film as it tours the uk : http://www.jpf-film.org.uk/