Saturday, May 04, 2013

SFIFF: Rent a Family Inc.

Friday night at the SF International Film Festival I saw the US premiere of Rent a Family Inc., a worrying documentary filmed in Japan about Ryuchi Ichinokawa & his business called I Want to Cheer You Up. Mr. Ichinokawa & his employees stand-in for clients' family members at important social events. For the 1st quarter hour I did not believe this was real. The movie was shot over a three and a half year period, & captures Mr. Ichinokawa on assignments, at home, & driving or walking through the city alone. We get glimpses of his biggest job, a wedding at which all the family & friends of the bride are his stand-ins. Mr. Ichinokawa is a reticent subject. As the film unfolds we discover that he is struggling financially, socially isolated, & completely disengaged from his wife & children, not even telling them what he does for a living. I left feeling concerned for both Mr. Ichinokawa & the clients that need his services.

The screening was introduced by Golden Gate Awards Manager Audrey Chang. The director Kaspar Astrup Schröder & the film's composer Jonas Colstrup were present for a Q&A. The audience asked relevant questions, & Ms. Chang somehow managed to ask something that Mr. Schröder already answered. We learned that scenes of Mr. Ichinokawa's family watching TV commentaries about Japanese society were constructed & did not happen that way in real life. 2 scenes showing Mr. Ichinokawa with clients are re-enactments using his employees. Though Mr. Ichinokawa claims that his role-playing has never been detected, Mr. Schröder thinks that people sometimes suspect when stand-ins are used but never say anything, because they want to preserve the face-saving facade. He asked if we thought this business would work here, but only a few of us raised our hands. Mr. Colstrup composed a serenely uplifting score featuring a solo cello but was entirely reluctant to talk during the Q&A.

§ Rent a Family Inc.
Lej en Familie A/S
dir: Kaspar Astrup Schröder
2012, Denmark, 77 mins.

The 56th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival
Sundance Kabuki Cinemas Fri, 5/3 8:45 PM
Sundance Kabuki Cinemas Sun, 5/5 6:45 PM
Sundance Kabuki Cinemas Sun, 5/5 9:15 PM
Pacific Film Archive Tue, 5/7 6:30 PM

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