Cannes: Kore-eda's 'Monster' with a big heart

Japanese actor Hinata Hiiragi, Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu and Japanese actor Soya Kurokawa pose during a photocall for the film 'Kaibutsu' (Monster) during the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on 18 May, 2023.AFP

Japan's Palme d'Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda unveiled his new movie ‘Monster’ at Cannes on Wednesday, a heartwarming tale despite its ominous title.

Treating issues including bullying and domestic abuse, ‘Monster’ bears many hallmarks of Kore-eda's tender cinema about tough lives and unconventional families that already won him the top prize in Cannes in 2018 for ‘Shoplifters’.

‘Monster’ begins as a disquieting tale of teacher-pupil harassment with a clear baddie, but judgements are swiftly revised as the film switches points of view.

"I wanted the spectator to be able to search in the same way the characters were doing in the film," the 60-year-old director told AFP about the movie's central mystery: who is the monster?

Shameful system

But while Kore-eda's characters emerge with their humanity intact, Japan's education system does not come off so well.

"When an institution puts protecting itself at the very top of its priorities... then 'what really happened is not important'," said Kore-eda, quoting a line from the film.

The phrase, he said, "is relevant not only for Japan's education system but also the majority of collective institutions that have a tendency to want to protect themselves at the cost of many other things".

Japanese actor Eita Nagayama, Japanese actress Sakura Ando, Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japanese actor Soya Kurokawa, Japanese actor Hinata Hiiragi and Japanese writer Yuji Sakamoto pose during a photocall for the film 'Kaibutsu' (Monster) during the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on 18 May, 2023.

Kore-eda's film comes just a year after his last one, ‘Broker’, premiered in competition at Cannes and scooped the best actor prize for Song Kang-ho, the South Korean star best-known for the multi-Oscar winning ‘Parasite’.

In a break from his usual working method, Kore-eda did not pen the script for ‘Monster’ himself, but turned to screenwriter Yuji Sakamoto.

"As it's not me who wrote it, I can say without a second thought that I think it's really a very good screenplay!" he joked about the intricate, multiple viewpoints narrative.

Since his first fiction film in 1995, Kore-eda has made more than a dozen critically acclaimed features.

He was first in competition for the Palme d'Or in 2001 with ‘Distance’, about the devastating personal toll of a cult massacre.

His breakthrough outside Japan came three years later with ‘Nobody Knows’, inspired, like many of his films, by a real-life event, this one set around four young siblings abandoned in an apartment by their mother.

The Cannes Film Festival runs until 27 May with 21 films in competition, including other past Palme winners such as Britain's Ken Loach and Germany's Wim Wenders.

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