A Small Talk about Shoplifters

As the first film I watched at MIFF 2018, Shoplifters amazed me a lot. Therefore, I decided to interview my friend Ying who is a fan of Hirokazu Kore-eda, the director of the film, to have a deeper discussion about Shoplifters and Hirokazu Kore-eda.



Jiang: I saw you always mentioned Hirokazu Kore-eda on the social media, so in your mind, are you a fan or a cinephile of Hirokazu Kore-eda?

Ying: I’m not sure about the definition of “fan”. I just watched some his movies and read few of his books. I like the feeling of his art, so I started to follow his news.


Jiang: When did you start to watch Kore-eda’s work? And which parts of his work attract you the most?

Ying: About two years ago. The first one I watched was Still Walking. The movie talks about all the things happen to a family in two days. Kore-eda’s films always focus on family or kinship, which is my favourite part in his work. When I watched Still Walking, it reminds me of many things in my family, especially my parents and my grandma.

Jiang: That’s true. I ever watched his film Our Little Sister. It’s also a film about the different lives of the four sisters in a family and the relationship among them.


Jiang: Which film of Kore-eda is your favourite, including Shoplifters? And why?

Ying: For now, it should be Still Walking. I think he is really smart to show many different aspects of the family in only two days. I think it seems that his way of narration is flat or undemonstrative, but he puts many feelings in detail and impresses audiences incredibly. Shoplifters is a very good example too. There is even no background music for some plots that express much emotion. It touched me a lot, but I felt like weeping but with no tears.


Jiang: In Shoplifters, which plots do you like the best?

Ying: I really like the interaction between Nobuyo Shibata (played by Sakura Ando) and the little girl Yuri. For example, when they were taking bath together, Yuri saw the scars on Nobuyo’s arms. I guess same as Yuri, Nobuyo may also get abused by her parents when she was young and beat by her ex-husband.


Jiang: Is Nobuyo your favourite character in this film?

Ying: Yes. I remember that she asked, “Why can Yuri still be so innocent and kind after being abused?” Actually, I think she also keeps the kind and soft part even she has faced so much misery in his life. She even lost her job to protect Yuri.

Jiang: At last, when the police told Nobuyo that children need their mum, she said that’s what mums think. I guess she may get hurt from her mum before, and her mum didn’t take mothers’ responsibility to take care and love the child.

Ying: When Nobuyo finally told Shota about the information of his real family, she may think the two children don’t really need a mum like her.

Jiang: I think Nobuyo wants to be the two children’s mum though she never says it like Osamu (played by Lily Franky), and she did try to play the role as mother in the family, but she finally realised a family like this cannot bring a bright future for both two kids.

Ying: Yes, but it is ironic. I think this family is the real one where can let children grow up happily although it is not allowed by the society.

Jiang: I agree. Even though all the people, including the police and the media, think Yuri should go back to her original family, I still feel a little bit terrified when Yuri’s mum said, “Come here, I will buy you a new dress.”, which means Yuri may get abused again. I don’t know how Yuri’s life will go on.


Jiang: At first, the ending was that Osamu goes to Yuri’s original home to find her. Then Yuri sees him at the balcony and calls him “daddy” loudly. However, Kore-eda delated the plot at the final edition. The film just ends with the scene of Yuri standing at the balcony and looking outside alone. Do you think it’s better to delate the plot of calling daddy or not?

Ying: Maybe it’s better to delate it, because the audiences have different imagination about the ending. Many people may have the same imagination with me – someone goes to save Yuri from the horrible home, but others may think in a more passive way.

Jiang: Of course. I think most people may wish Yuri can go back to live with Osamu again, but it seems to be impractical. As we just discussed, this kind of family, the family of shoplifters, cannot be accepted by the society. Besides, if Yuri grows up with Osamu and Nobuyo, no one can promise that she won’t get any bad influences from them. I think Kore-eda just leaves the questions to the audiences and let them think more about such social issues.

Ying: Yes. In fact, Kore-eda is a director who has a very strong sense of responsibility.


Jiang: When do you go to watch Shoplifters?

Ying: Just after its release in the cinemas in China.

Jiang: I remember that the edition shown in China has been delated some plots in it, right?

Ying: Yes. It delates the plots of Aki’s (played by Mayu Matsuoka) work as compensated dating and Nobuyo and Osamu’s sex scene.

Jiang: Do you think it’s abrupt after delating these plots?

Ying: Actually, I feel OK for this film. But if watching the complete edition, audiences may get more feeling from those scenes.

Jiang: I think the conversation after Nobuyo and Osamu’s sex scene is interesting. In the film, Osamu feels surprised and happy after Nobuyo’s sudden intimacy. I think it shows that Osamu also wishes to have a normal life with Nobuyo, having space and time to make love, which is hard for them due to the poverty and their bad history. It seems like the intimacy at that rainy afternoon is also the good time they stolen from others.


Jiang: This film becomes very popular before its release. At this year’s Shanghai International Film Festival, the tickets of Shoplifters sold out quickly. Some people even sold the ticket at about 1000 RMB on the internet. Why do you think this film is so popular?

Ying: I think maybe because the film won the Palme d’Or for Best Film at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, everyone is curious about the film and all wants to have a look.


Jiang: I went to MIFF 2018 to watch Shoplifters, and it was really good. Everyone in the theatre enjoyed the film very much and applaused after ending. I think everyone going to film festivals belongs to the group of people who really like and respect arts. If time and finances permit, do you want to go to film festivals to watch the film? Or watch more films?

Ying: Yes, of course! I really want to have a look how film festivals look like. I like watching animation, and I think the animations that can go to film festivals must be some great works.

Jiang: Also, I think animations can get more chances to be shown in film festivals than common cinema chains.

Ying: Yes. Moreover, I think it’s good that some film festivals would restore and re-release some old movies. These are precious experiences for cinephile.

Jiang: That’s true.


Jiang: Thank you so much today, Ying.

Ying: Good to chat with you too.

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