Hirokazu Kore-eda has often said that he preferred being compared to a filmmaker like Ken Loach as opposed to Yasujiro Ozu, and with Shoplifters, it’s easy to see why. But just like the British realist filmmaker at his very best, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ability to craft a story about a group of people trying to overcome the very worst that their life has set in stone for them with such empathy is also what makes for an endearing experience. I knew from watching a film about such people trying to survive in a world that is built by nothing beyond dreary cynicism would already be depressing, but Hirokazu Kore-eda presents every moment of Shoplifters in such a way that hits incredibly close to home. These could be people you know up close, people who are desperate to survive because they cannot find jobs. These are people who you recognize as real, inside a world that you inhabit. No matter how much you would want to believe that this isn’t something that you could see such people stooping down to, you only have one instinct running through your head – you simply want them to survive. To say the least, this is where the power of a tragic tale lies within, and a whole lot more.
When I first saw Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking, the first thing that would have come to mind from my own experience with it was none other than the work of Yasujiro Ozu. My own love for the work of Ozu was something that only compelled me to watch Still Walking for my first time and on many subsequent revisits, it retains that power – for in the simplest actions it manages to become something all the more profound. I’ve read somewhere that Hirokazu Kore-eda is not fond of the Yasujiro Ozu comparisons (he said he would much rather be linked to the likes of Ken Loach) but with a film like Still Walking it feels irresistible. About as close as we can get to modern day Ozu.