This early credit for fast-rising Japanese writer/ director Kôji Fukada shows easy sophistication in both story & technique, and an unexpectedly witty tone that (calmly) echoes Jûzô Itami. The tale’s an old one: the outsider who moves in and quietly takes over; here played out as a darkly comic sex roundelay at a small family-owned print shop with living quarters above. Everyone seems to be cheating in some manner (with cash, flesh or affection), not in the hectic near-miss of French Boulevard farce, but with the resigned discomfort & off-kilter drawing-room sensibility of Brit playwright Alan Ackbourn. Fukada’s structural gimmick ups the ante one modest outrage at a time, trapping the store proprietor into capitulating after he beds the stranger’s wife, a mysterious blonde foreigner. Similar hazards lurk for his recently returned divorced sister; his much younger second wife; and her slacker brother. All neatly dovetailed in Fukada’s no-sweat style (hiding under a thin coat of realism) that allows you swallow the more outlandish moments in this modern ‘comedy of humours,’ even if some tidy explanations wrap things up a little too neatly. But with excellent perfs and spot-on camera placements even in the tightest of corners, Fukada is a guy to watch, in this and in the future.
DOUBLE-BILL: Similar ideas get a darker workout in Harold Pinter/ Joseph Losey’s THE SERVANT/’63 with Dirk Bogarde & James Fox.