Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Giri/Haji | Lefsetz Letter

This show is FABULOUS!

I wish I could recommend comedies, but despite the lack of recognition, comedy is much harder to do than drama and I just can’t find streaming comedies in the league of these exquisite dramas. I don’t want network fare on Netflix, I don’t need no “Kominsky Method” or “Grace and Frankie,” my time is too valuable, I want something that will entice me, ring my bell, prevent my mind from wandering, something I’ll think about after it’s over.

I think “Giri/Haji” has little traction because of its name and sometime use of subtitles. I’ve got to give credit to Netflix for not renaming it “Duty/Shame,” the English translation, you’ve got to be true to the material.

So what we’ve got here is a crime drama mixed in with a family drama mixed in with a relationship drama. Few projects cross all these boundaries, hit all these notes.

So the basic story is a Japanese cop goes to London to look for his gangster brother.

As America has become more ethnocentric, as the chest-thumping chant of USA!, USA! has become ever louder, few people have passports and the desire to travel to a foreign country is not top of mind, especially if they don’t speak English there. And speaking of English, talk to any resident of the U.K., they travel incessantly, have been nearly everywhere, maybe it’s a remnant of the empire era, and now it’s harder after Brexit. Europe for the weekend? Maybe not, too much hassle.

Which is just to say the footage of Japan makes me want to go there. It’s so foreign yet so normal. Too many Americans believe other countries are backward, but watching this Japan just seems like an analogue of the U.S., you can see how people could live there and not give a second thought to the U.S., makes me wish I spoke Japanese.

So there’s the story.

And then there’s the acting.

Will Sharpe as Rodney is positively astounding. He jumps right off the screen. And like true-life people you’re alternately drawn to him and repelled by him. The night wherein he rings everybody he knows and nobody’s available…we’ve all been desperate like that, at least I have. And how he hates it when the sun comes up…if you’re a night owl, nothing is worse.

And Charlie Creed-Miles as Connor Abbot… You’ve seen this guy, he inhabits his character so well you believe he’s really the person. The intensity and the humor all wrapped up into one, the ability to sneer and then smile…you smile every time he’s on screen.

And Kelly Macdonald, who is just shy of classically beautiful and therefore ever intriguing, embodies a single woman in the city, with a good job and questions about love.

As for the Yakuza…

The Japanese Mafia. Masahiro Motoki as Fukuhara doesn’t look that old or scary, and then he tightens his face and becomes quietly ferocious.

Not that everybody else is not good, it’s just that the above performances truly stand out.

But it’s not only the acting that wows and inspires, theatrical film level cinematography is employed, with split screens and animations and…

Now the violence can be truly intense, so be forewarned.

And I never had a brother, but this makes me wonder whether blood is thicker than the law.

And the show reinforces that so much is grey, or like the title of that book we read in high school, it’s all situation ethics.

Is the ending as satisfying as the ride?

I won’t give anything away, I’ll just say when you’re finished with this eight episode journey e-mail me and tell me what you think.

“Giri/Haji” is a winner.


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