Present-day Tokyo. 27-yr-old Hanako dismays her moneyed family by announcing a split from her fiancé. Desperate to see her married, they set up a series of potential love-matches, none of which clicks until she meets Koichiro, scion of an equally well-to-do family looking for a suitable wife to support his prospective career in politics. Meanwhile, 32-yr-old Miki is from the sticks and is studying at a prestigious university. She’s struggling over money but is confident and driven, and has her eye on one of the boys from the wealthy set, name of Koichiro. The trajectories of these two women, describing paths defined by class distinctions, would normally never cross, but when they do Hanako and Miki find they have much in common.
Rather like the aristocrats of the title, Yukiko Sode’s assured third feature has impeccable manners and poise. Watching it is like observing a craftsperson create an intricate and exquisite piece of fabric - narrative threads are laid and interweave to form the whole as we follow the fortunes of these two ‘arasa’ (women aged around 30), pressured by societal norms to conform yet quietly determined to find their own way through life in the big city. As well as being an outstanding piece of cinema in the humanist tradition of Japanese master Yasujirō Ozu, Aristocrats is also something of a love letter to Tokyo, and while it never bellows its feminist credentials from the rooftops, it incisively delivers a critique of the situation in which many young women find themselves in modern Japan.
”…as Yukiko Sode’s Aristocrats shows with precision and insight, the Japanese upper class continues to rule the top rungs of business, politics and society… Aristocrats is the rare recent Japanese film that focuses on the yawning gap between the masses and the classes” - Mark Schilling, The Japan Times.
“Aristocrats is an expertly measured drama about class and gender in a society which is nowhere near as progressive as it may like to think. The trick with Yukiko Sode’s film is the restraint. Every shot is calculated. Every gesture. There’s an exactness which is thrilling.” - Rob Aldam, Backseat Mafia.
”…Aristocrats gives an intriguing glimpse into the stifling, rarefied world of girls raised to be the wives of powerful men.” - Wendy Ide, Screen International.
YourScreen audience comments:
‘We were glad that the Festival had given us the opportunity to see this prize-winning film, revealing hidden aspects of Japanese society.’