The Family Game (1983) Poster

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Interesting! Playful! One of my TOP 5 Japanese Movies!
onodoken8 October 2000
This little film deals with, basically, a young, male Japanese teen who has seemed to just quit attempting to do well in school for one reason or another. I know what your thinking, "That's it." This movie actually deals with the relationship the young teen and his "tutor" have. Now, if you do not know anything about the Japanese society, I would suggest reading up on it a bit, especially dealing with the school system. But for those of you who do not have the time, it basically comes down to this . . . .males MUST do well in junior high, in order to get into a good high school, which in turn is the hardest type of schooling on the face of the earth. If they are lucky to finish and not collapse under the pressure, they eventually go on to college which is the easiest stretch of time they will ever encounter. But this is not all, there a lot of suttle points to admire here, but there are just too many to mention. I recommend this to anyone who is looking for a light, but witty comedy. Also watch, "Tampopo", "A Taxing Woman", "Minbo no onna", "Hana-bi", "Kids Return", and "Adrenaline Drive." You will not be disappointed!
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Tough "Love"
Meganeguard14 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Three years ago I took a class called Images in Japanese Popular Culture and within the class we watched several wonderful films, including of each from the multitude of Zatoichi and Tora-san films, a beautiful film titled Furusato by Koyama Seijiro, a real tearjerker titled Okaasan, and Ichikawa Kon's beautiful rendition of Tanizaki Junichiro's The Makioka Sisters. However, I believe the film that truly stuck in my memory was Morita's Family game starring Matsuda Yusaku, father of Matsuda Ryuhei, and Itami Juzo, the brilliant actor and director who would later create such masterpieces as Tampopo and A Quiet Life.

Family Game opens by introducing the viewer to the Numata family, dad, mom, older brother Shinichi, and younger brother Shigeyuki. While Shinichi is a wonderful student having been accepted to a top high school which has a strong record getting its students into the top universities, younger brother Shigeyuki is much closer to the bottom, around 8th or 9th. While basically absent from the household, except when he comes home after work drunk, dad is concerned that his younger son won't get accepted into a top high school. Therefore he hires Yoshimoto, a tall, clean cut young man who attends a third-rate university. Many tutors have failed before the arrival of Yoshimoto, so dad offers him 10,000 yen per class rank Shigeyuki ascends. Therefore if Shigeyuki rises thirty ranks Yoshimoto will receive 300, 000 yen. Seems like a good deal, yes? Well, Shigeyuki is not quite willing to cooperate. With his non-confrontational mother who prefers leaving bigger decisions to her husband or others, Shigeyuki is used to getting his way, so when he is told to write the words he does know in Basho's Narrow Road to the North, he pulls a stunt in which he writes "twilight," 夕暮れ, over and over again. When Yoshimoto sees page after page of "twilight" he then proceeds to slap Shigeyuki hard enough to bloody the boy's nose, and warns him that if he tries to pull anymore stunts like that again he will be hit, and Yoshimoto is not one to pull his punches. Yoshimoto informs Shigeyuki's mother that the reason the boy's nose bled was that he got a bit over-excited, but although it is never directly stated she is of course worried, but dad thinks the end justifies the means, so the tutoring continues. With an absent father and a gentle milksop for a mother, Shigeyuki actually does become closer to his tutor and his grades do actually rise, but it is not through actual academic assistance, Yoshimoto normally looks at books about plants during their tutoring sessions, but the closeness and discipline Yoshimoto offers helps the boy. However, should Yoshimoto really be the one providing such a foundation? Family Game is completely dominated by the presence of Matsuda Yusaku. With his large size he almost fills the apartment of the Numatas' which is almost at bursting point with its four family members. However, it is his aggressiveness that really takes the stage. With no sense of personal space, Yoshimoto gets as close as he possibly can to Shigeyuki and often touches him as well, including one part of the film in which Shigeyuki is dressed only in his briefs. This scene doesn't have any sexual undertones in my opinion, but it is again another example of the magnitude of Yoshimoto's presence. Yoshimoto does other things to excess also, including drinking all of his beverages, often noisily, in on breath. While it is not too popular in the Western world, although it pops up quite often in film classes, Family Game is a pretty amazing film that should be seen just for the film's last ten minutes, but should be seen by those who not only enjoy Japanese films, but films in general.
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full of ideas, and very dreamlike... slapping you out of nowhere now and then.
whatdoes1know6 December 2001
It was fun to watch the creativity put in this movie, and the tensions between the characters build up. The tutor, as imprevisible as the weather, is a major source of fun--especially in the typically anally retentive Japanese family context. I really liked how they craftily managed to plant a pretty obscene line in an argument over breakfast--it's a pun, so ask your neighborhood translator to watch the argument scene with you. The provision of laughter is disconcertingly random, so you either like it or not. I gave this a seven.
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Hilarious social satire with a touch of slapstick
donaldsgordon20 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In his third year of middle school, Shigeyuki Numata is languishing near the bottom of his class, so his parents hire yet another tutor to try to get his grades up, so he can get into a good high school like his older brother, Shin'ichi. Both Shigeyuki and Shin'ichi are artists at heart, and spend their time doodling in their notebooks.

The latest tutor they hire is Yoshimoto, played by the brilliant Yuusaku Matsuda (Black Rain). Yoshimoto is a lackluster student himself, but Shigeyuki's father (played by Juuzou Itami, the director of Tampopo) makes a deal with him to pay a bonus if he can raise Shigeyuki's rank in his class. Yoshimoto applies some tough love, swatting Shigeyuki when he goofs around. Eventually, we learn that Shigeyuki is being bullied by his childhood frenemy, Tsuchiya. Yoshimoto agrees to teach Shigeyuki how to fight if he studies harder, and thus things finally start to improve on all fronts.

A lot of the jokes hinge on deadpan irony and the lack of private space in Tokyo. When Papa Numata wants to talk, he takes first the tutor and then his wife to their parked car, as this is perhaps the only place they can be alone. At meal time, the family all sits in a row on one side of their dining room table, highlighting the lack of communication between them. Shin'ichi must go through Shigeyuki's room to get to his own. When Yoshimoto is teaching Shigeyuki how to fight on the roof of the building, a boy with a telescope keeps impinging on their space, forcing them to move.

A neighbour woman in their apartment complex remarks that Mama Numata is the first person ever to speak to her. When she visits Mama, she reveals her husband's father is about to die, but she has no idea how to get the dead body out of the apartment as a casket won't fit in the elevator!

Shin'ichi visits a cute girl Mieko's apartment a few times. Mieko's parents are always watching TV seemingly oblivious to the boys who come calling. Shin'ichi opens the curtains to look out Mieko's window, remarks "Nice view," but all we can see is an oil refinery and smokestacks.

The slapstick centres on Yoshimoto. The joke is that he was hired to teach, but really the only thing he's good at is fighting. Shigeyuki becomes a better fighter under his tutelage, and starts to challenge his teacher. After Shigeyuki finally gets into the best high school, they have one last dinner which descends into a silly food fight with the family decked out on the floor, and Yoshimoto the last man standing.

Director Yoshimitsu Morita has quite a body of work now, but I think this is one of his best films.
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It's got several wonderful moments...and a lot of flat ones....
MartinHafer1 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I can see by the other reviews that I am in the distinct minority on this one. Despite their really liking it, much of the film didn't seem to work for me and despite a few very nice scenes, the overall picture left me flat and a bit confused. Had the film been more of an outright comedy, I think it would have worked better for me. Instead, parts were comedic, parts were a bit dull and much of it was just inexplicable.

The film is the story of a slacker who is in 9th grade and soon to take his high school exams. While we don't have these in the States, I know that in many countries this is a HUGE event--and Japanese families put a lot of pressure on their kids to get into the best schools. Despite this pressure, the kid chooses not to even try and is one of the worst kids in his class....and previous tutors were unable to get him to budge. This new one is odd...very odd. In fact, much of the time he seems to act for practically no reason and in ways you'd never expect. However, when the boy's father offers him a bonus for each ranking the kid improves, that's enough to get the odd tutor to act---occasionally slapping or threatening the boy to get results. Then, as if my magic, the boy improves (though how and this whole process seemed to come from no where) and instead of everything being wonderful, you see through the course of this film that the family is really screwed up--distant, dysfunctional and bland. So, again out the the blue, the tutor beats the snot out of all of them and leaves. Then, the mom and two sons are shown becoming sleepy and taking a nap...and so the film ends.

As I said, the film has some wonderful moments--but too much of the stuff in between looks like outtakes or scenes that should have been deleted. I just kept hoping the film would get really weird or profound...but nothing. Perhaps I was hoping for the film to be like "Tampopo" or "Happiness of the Katakuris", all I know is that it left me very flat.

By the way, although I did not adore the film, one thing sure struck me. The kids in the classroom were horrible--badly behaved, obnoxious and jerks. I assume this was meant as parody, as Jpaanese kids have fantastic reputations for studying and working hard...and NOT being total jerks. These kids were much, much worse behaved than any of the high and middle school kids I ever taught--and American kids are famous for being ill-behaved slackers. I'd love to hear more from someone who can tell me if Japanese kids ever actually behave like this.
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An Art Theatre's Guild Classic
ginkoale15 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In a somewhat indirect way, this film comes across to me as a precursor to Miike's "Visitor Q". At its core "Kazoku Gamu" is the story of an outsider who frequently visits a family and greatly influences (and disrupts!) the household. While it is nowhere near as gross as "Visitor Q", there are disturbing undertones (such as child molestation) hidden beneath the film's pleasant surface.

Even with all comparisons put aside, "Kazoku Gamu" remains a really entertaining film on its own. There are many moments where characters burst out with erratic behavior, as well as really funny dialog. All the acting is very well executed too.

A classic of its time.
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A rather slap-stick portrayal of an important story.
gordon-3116 August 2001
A middle-class Japanese teenager won't study to pass exams to get into high school so a tutor is hired. The tutor, who is basically a slob, gets the done. The family lives in a high-rise apartment across the Sumida River from Tokyo and it is interesting to see what family life is like in that set-up. The teenager's mother tries valiantly to see her children succeed in a rather chaotic situation.

The Japanese education system is a rat-race to pass exams. It deserves a better story than this one.
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A funny, if not a little eccentric, look at Japanese society
bunny_tsukino10 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The movie tells of a Japanese family living in a small apartment. They have two sons, one in high school doing well in his studies, the other failing miserably because he does not care. Shigeyuki, the younger brother, is not stupid, he is just lazy, and a bit of a trouble maker. The family has hired a series of tutors for the boy, but none have helped. This changed with the introduction of Yoshimoto, the new tutor. He has quite a different look at tutoring, including kissing his subject and then smacking him, and then rubbing the young man's buttocks. As Shigeyuki begins to flourish under the odd tutor, his older brother, once considered to be the son that brought pride to the family is beginning to fall behind and cut classes. His once encouraging father insults him and his mother tries her best to hold the family. We not only explore the boys' studies, but also the family dynamic. The father works all the time, and doesn't care about his family. The mother tries to hold the family together, and like many women all over the world, is unhappy having to sacrifice her happiness for her husband and children. The film, although quite smart, is also very funny. Shigeyuki has a habit of fighting with older boys, and we hear stories of how he once lost control of his bowels in class. Shigeyuki is given porn mags as a joke, and when his tutor sees them he asks 'does looking at them give you a hard on?' to which Shigeyuki replies, 'no, i don't like girls.' the tutor fires back 'they give me hard ones, fast'. The tutor often has dinner with his student's family. During one of the final, and most hilarious scenes you see mother and father discussing their family, while ignoring the escalating food fight beside them. Not until Yoshimoto pours wine all over their small table do they take notice. This is when the fun really begins. One by one Yoshimoto smacks them all into unconsciousness, in hilarious loony toons or three stooges fashion. Kazoku gêmu, or The Family Game, is a hilarious piece of work from Japan. It is HARD to find with English subtitles, but worth the search!
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