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Acclaimed as a major discovery upon its North American release, Yoshimitsu Morita's hilariously deadpan comedy invokes the precise visual and sound design of Jacques Tati to portray the hilarity and horror of contemporary Japan.
"It's risky to make predictions on the basis of just one film, but The Family Game is so rich that Mr. Morita would seem to be one of the most talented and original of Japan's new generation of film makers," declared Vincent Canby in The New York Times, and this sense of major discovery was echoed by countless other critics. The film opens as the family (whose last name is never revealed) noisily slurp their food, perched elbow-in-eye behind a narrow table, the scene's deadpan tone and eccentric geometric visual design introducing the key elements of Morita's hilarious satire of Japanese family life. Juzo Itami, famed director of Tampopo, plays the boozing father, who cannot abide the failure of his young anti-social son and hires a laconic, hard-headed tutor to take the boy in hand. Like Tati, Morita deploys a highly controlled sound design and visual plan to intensify the hilarity and the horror of his view of contemporary Japan. "A subversive screwball comedy reminiscent of Vigo's Zero for Conduct. . . . One of the most bizarre slapstick finales of any comedy in recent memory" (Newsday).