Noriko's Dinner Table

Japanese director Sion Sono's follow-up to the disturbing — and disturbingly popular — 2002 shocker SUICIDE CLUB (aka SUICIDE CIRCLE) is neither a prequel nor a sequel. Nor is it really much of a horror movie: It's a bizarre, bloody family drama that puts its predecessor into a larger social context. December 2001: Desperate to live a "real"...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Japanese director Sion Sono's follow-up to the disturbing — and disturbingly popular — 2002 shocker SUICIDE CLUB (aka SUICIDE CIRCLE) is neither a prequel nor a sequel. Nor is it really much of a horror movie: It's a bizarre, bloody family drama that puts its predecessor into a larger social context.

December 2001: Desperate to live a "real" life outside her provincial hometown on the Japanese coast, and emboldened by online exchanges with other women her age on a mysterious website called Haikyo.com, sullen 17-year-old Noriko Shimabara (Kazue Fukiishi) finally decides to pack a bag and escape tiny Toyokawa. Finally free of her domineering father, Tetsuzo (Ken Mitsuishi), a local reporter of achingly trivial events who wants Noriko to attend a local university and then follow in his own journalistic footsteps, Noriko arrives at Tokyo Station, frightened by the big city but eager to meet the other girls of Haikyo.com, who know her only by her glamorous screen name: Mitsuko. At an Internet cafe, Noriko contacts the person who calls herself "Ueno Station 54," the site's wise and supportive moderator, and they agree to meet the following morning at the Tokyo train station for which she's named. After finally figuring out that "54" refers to a storage locker at the Ueno station, Noriko meets her idol, a pretty young woman whose real name is Kumiko (an unnervingly good Tsugumi). Kumiko arrives with what appears to be her entire family, and within weeks of their meeting, Noriko Shimabara seems to disappear from the face of the earth.

Six months later, 54 smiling, singing schoolgirls stage a mass suicide at Shinjuku Station by jumping in front of an oncoming subway train. Their shocking act triggers a wave of suicides among young people across Japan. Back in Toyokawa, Noriko's younger sister, Yuka (Yuriko Yoshitaka), begins to wonder whether her missing sister is somehow connected to this sudden suicide epidemic; she knows those mysterious red and white dots on Haikyo.com are a tally of the men and women who have already killed themselves. To solve the mystery of Noriko's disappearance — and maybe find a life of her own — Yuka also runs away to Tokyo. Having lost both daughters and, soon, his wife, Taeko (Sanae Miyata), patriarch Tetsuzo has no choice but to travel to Tokyo himself and solve the mystery of his daughter's disappearance.

If the surprise success of SUICIDE CLUB worried a lot of Japanese adults, who wondered why Japanese teens responded so strongly to a movie about a suicidal youth movement, NORIKO'S DINNER TABLE will have the rest of the world worrying about the state of the sacred Japanese family unit. Divided into three chapters, focusing on Noriko, Yuka and Tetsuzo as they enter the mystery of Haikyo.com, the film not only reveals the usual disconnect between parents and their children, and between teenagers and themselves (the theme of SUICIDE CLUB), but a deep feeling of dissatisfaction on behalf of parents whose disappointment in the families they've formed lead them to bizarre extremes. At nearly three hours, the film may feel overlong, but it's continually surprising even when its meanings grow obscure.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Japanese director Sion Sono's follow-up to the disturbing — and disturbingly popular — 2002 shocker SUICIDE CLUB (aka SUICIDE CIRCLE) is neither a prequel nor a sequel. Nor is it really much of a horror movie: It's a bizarre, bloody family drama… (more)

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