Seiichi Tanabe, Hush

There’s a moment in the Japanese film Hush! that provokes, if not culture shock, then at least an eyebrow-raising bit of cultural surprise. In Tokyo, morose, stringy-haired Asako (Reiko Kataoka), unlucky in love and with two abortions in her past, proposes having a child with Katsuhiro (Seiichi Tanabe), a serenely handsome gay research engineer who lives with his boyfriend. For a while, the three of them hang out, and the movie glides along with a cloying sort of we-are-alterna-family blitheness. Finally, there’s a charged scene in which this unusual arrangement is questioned, violently, by various relatives. It’s not the men’s gayness that’s the problem, though; it’s that their relations don’t want them involved with a woman of low stature.

This scorn for the barely ”fallen” Asako, coupled with a no-sweat acceptance of homosexual parentage, is, in light of contrasting American prejudices, a fascinating socioerotic fact. ”Hush!,” unfortunately, fails to make it fascinating drama. That’s because the movie, in a strange way, echoes the intolerance it’s criticizing. It presents Asako as a bereft, even tragic figure, possessed by loneliness as she scrunches between the furniture in her dank apartment. Yet the film’s attention keeps drifting away from her and over to the two men, whose struggles are comparatively minor. ”Hush!” is a feel-good movie that doesn’t give you enough to feel good about.

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