Of Love & Law

 

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A view of Japan from a Japanese woman, Toda Hikaru, returning there for the first time in 22 years.

 
Of Love & Law

Fumi and Kazu 

 

This film may be less than perfect but what it has to say makes it important. Furthermore, it needs to be stressed at the outset that its significant subject matter is far more wide-ranging than one might anticipate. Toda Hikaru's documentary filmed in Osaka is centred on a gay couple, Yoshida Masafumi and Minami Kazayuki, who set up the first law firm in Japan to be run by openly gay men. Consequently, one expects this film to be primarily concerned with gay issues, a supposition that is encouraged by its memorable title Of Love & Law. However, that is far from being the essence of the piece, although for both gay and non-gay audiences it has value in offering one of the best ever screen portrayals of a gay couple. Fumi and Kazu, as they are known, have been together for fifteen years and what we see of them at work and at home is wonderfully telling because, even when they arguing, there is never a moment when the depth of the bond between them cannot be sensed.

 

However, the cases touched on here as examples of the work taken on by these two lawyers rarely involve homosexuality although they are concerned with the rights of minorities and outsiders. Instead, the cases most prominently featured cover a wide range. Thus, we see, for example, an artist named Rokudenashiko being accused of obscenity for creating art works focused on the vagina (it's somewhat ironical that her aim in doing so is to celebrate the vagina as part of the female body that ought not to be thought of as obscene). Then there's a teacher who is dismissed because her beliefs prevent her from standing to sing the Japanese national anthem. More than one case involves individuals deprived of the right to be registered at birth because their parents were not at the time part of a recognised legal family.

 

Fumi and Kazu, both endearing in their honesty, live with a youngster named Kazuma, a homeless orphan for whom Fumi acted and for whom he has taken on guardianship. Late in the film it appears that Fumi and Kazu are attending classes about becoming foster parents, but long before that Of Love & Law is coming across as a film showing very clearly how this unit of three is in effect a happy family. I have said that this film is less than perfect and it lacks something structurally: the various case are often introduced with a  written title but the sections of the film are less distinct than that implies and towards the close the film fails to build to a climax and even starts to feel a bit scrappy. However, its flaws do not in any real way reduce its impact. The individual issues touched on all count, but Of Love & Law succeeds above all as a study of the psychology of Japanese society today, the outlook that still bows to convention and to tradition to such an extent that minorities and those with outsider views are seen as elements to be kept down. The non-importance of the individual in Japanese society is the key aspect affecting the lives of all those who appear in this film.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Yoshida Masafumi, Minami Kazuyuki, Kazuma, Rokudenashiko.

 

Dir Toda Hikaru, Pro Elhum Shakerifaken and Toda Hikaru, Ph Jason Brooks, Ed Hata Kateshi, Music Maeda Yuichiro.

 

A Little Stranger Films & Hakawati/Chicken & Egg Pictures/Les Films du Balibari/Postcode  Films-Hakawati.
95 mins. UK/USA/France/Denmark/Japan. 2017. Rel: 1 March 2019. Cert. 15.