Noriko's Dinner Table (2005)

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Movie Info

Noriko's Dinner Table (2005) constitutes a follow-up with thematic similarities and loose narrative connections (though not a direct sequel) to Japanese filmmaker Shion Sono's dark 2002 satire Suicide Club. The time-fractured narrative weaves the gothic tale of the two backward Shimbara sisters, teenagers Yuka (Yuriko Yoshitaka) and Noriko (Kazue Fukiishi). The girls inadvertently become enslaved to a website, Hayiko.com, that represents a front for a perverse theatrical group, "The Family Circle" -- whereby young girls are hired by clients to act out bizarre fantasies. As a product of becoming implicated in the site, the sisters lose the ability to recognize their own identities; one is brainwashed by being forced to watch the mass suicide of 54 young Japanese girls from the earlier Suicide Club. The picture ultimately descends into blood-soaked carnage involving the titular table and a bevy of inanimate domestic objects. Ever the formalist, Sono divides his recit into a quintet of segments, and labels four of five with the names of key characters, each of whom narrates his or her "chapter" in voice-over.

Cast

Kazue Fukiishi
as Noriko Shimabara
Tsugumi
as Kumiko
Ken Mitsuishi
as Tetsuzo Shimabara
Yuriko Yoshitaka
as Yuka Shimabara

Critic Reviews for Noriko's Dinner Table

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (5)

Noriko's Dinner Table embraces [suicidal] tendencies with gusto and striking originality. The film is a boldly fragmented and tantalizing saga.

Jul 5, 2007 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Noriko's Dinner Table is both prequel and sequel to Suicide Club -- but never its equal. It's twice as long and three times as ponderous.

Jul 5, 2007 | Full Review…

Too long by half.

Jun 13, 2007

One of the most ambitious tonal mash-ups in memory, Noriko's Dinner Table is a domestic comedy, a bloody psychological thriller and a comment on the fragility of identity.

Jun 13, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Has a mind-blowing scene at its climax that takes the whole movie to set up

Jun 19, 2008 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

part investigative mystery, part cultist drama, and you can pretty much guess where it's all going

Aug 12, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Noriko's Dinner Table

I believe every filmmaker should make the type of movie he/she wants. I don't think they should acquiesce to a studio who wants something done differently because it doesn't fit what the studio wants. Then there's movies like this, which make me re-think those ideas. And it's not that the movie doesn't make sense. I resigned myself to the fact that it probably wouldn't make sense long before I even started watching it, hell Suicide Club (of which this movie is a pre/sequel of sorts) didn't make sense either, didn't stop it from being a great movie. The problem is how self-indulgent and pretentious the movie is. Can anybody, seriously, give me a good reason why this movie was 2 hours and 40 minutes long??? If you wanted to see Sion Sono pleasuring himself metaphorically through his characters for 3 hours, then this is the movie for you. There are a lot of narrated monologues that absolutely serve no purpose whatsoever, other than, again, to stroke Sion's ego. You could've cut this movie in HALF, would've been an IMMENSELY better and I don't think I've ever gone that far with a movie. Think about it...this would be an hour and 20 minutes cut. And this isn't me exaggerating, it's Sion Sono getting WAY out of hand with this movie and refusing to edit it down out of pure stubbornness or, perhaps, stupidity. And the thing is, the movie has good ideas. It adds intrigue into this mysterious suicide circle and the individual stories, while the constant voice over monologues are probably the worst (as in self-indulgent and pretentious) part of the movie other than the length, at least seem to be hinting that they're all heading toward the same end. Like they're on a collision course and that's good. There's also some interesting themes about family, identity, nihilism. I don't get how people thought it was a good movie, but hey that's their opinion. I wouldn't say I hated this movie, but in a lot of ways I did. This, Southland Tales, and almost every Gus Van Sant movie in existence is proof that giving people creative freedom isn't always the best idea. Very disappointing and I wouldn't recommend it on any level.

Jesse Ortega
Jesse Ortega

Super Reviewer

½

I thought this might either explain Suicide Club, or be interesting in its own right. It didn't, and it wasn't. .

Lesley N
Lesley N

Super Reviewer

½

Watch half, take the other only if you have a strong desire to watch a (up til then) decent film circle the drain of pretentious, philosophical nonsense. Ok, that's not quite fair, what the makers were trying to accomplish was a muiti-charater-centered narrative that dreamily moves between each of their stories in a manner that may or may not be "the truth" of the situation. Who's at fault? Who hurt who? Who wants what? Who knows. Believe you me, I'm not a total philistine snob, but even you enjoy the type of philosophical film-making that forces you to dissect for meaning (which I do) this is still too much. By the end you aren't so much confused as you are thinking about what the dinner special is at Denny's tonight...or what it would be like to eat at Denny's crammed in a booth with a bunch of hot, Japanese school girls. Mmm pancakes. What was I talking about?

Brett Warren
Brett Warren

Super Reviewer

I came into Noriko's Dinner Table with no real preconceptions created by Suicide Club. I haven't seen that movie in over two years and I wasn't exactly bowled over by it in the first place. This was a blank-slate film experience for me, and it's not a sequel or prequel so much as an independent movie operating laterally to Suicide Club, so why am I even talking about all this. I guess what I mean to say is if you're searching for Suicide Club's meaning in this film you're not bound to find any; instead, consider yourself treated to a director who has no idea what the fuck he's doing. I really liked Strange Circus, but this and Suicide Club are convincing me that Sion Sono just likes to masturbate all over his film reels and see if what he produces is worth anything to his viewers. This, far more than Suicide Club, is a collection of half-developed themes and psychological dead ends, posing plenty of interesting tidbits but never really following through on them. Most of the movie is engaging, and by the time you realize it's completely meaningless you feel obligated to finish it anyway because it's so goddamn long. The primary theme of the film, "feeling connected to yourself," is poorly developed and far too oblique to sustain it for its 160 minute running time. If Sono's intention was to get his viewers to examine the subtleties of the film, perhaps he could have kept the voiceover out of it, one of the most overbearing narrations in any recent film. The first hour sounds and plays like a cheap J-drama to no real effect. The flashbacks don't illuminate or deepen the emotional connection to the film at all. All these blank shots suggest to me that Sono had a handful of underdeveloped concepts and images from his novel that he wanted to string together on screen, but discovered that it wasn't as deep or profound as he thought. Admittedly, the notion of a "family rental" unit is great, and the undeniable pain of a father who has lost his daughters to indifference is a juicy emotional crux to stable the movie with (enhanced by strong performances from the father and the older sister). Its lack of focus is frustrating, though. This film is based on a 2002 novel by Sono, and though the adaptation came out the same year as his magnum opus Strange Circus (2005), it's clear that in that three year gap he learned a lot about restraint and framing. Gravest of all is Sono's ignorance of a harsh truth: if you're going to make a three-hour art film, it needs to be artistic. If you choose to disregard unconventional narrative and A-to-B storytelling, you need to anchor your project in the world of cinema. Noriko's Dinner Table looks and sounds like shit, probably a trapping of budget. Its cheapness and lack of cohesive vision make the whole project seem like an exceptionally violent soap opera, or again, a trashy J-drama. I would never have expected it from Sono, considering his penchant for pomp, but the movie is so utterly uncompelling on all levels that I feel like it shouldn't exist at all.

Drew Smith
Drew Smith

Super Reviewer

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