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Key of Life

4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Unemployed 35 year old Sakurai aspired to become an actor, but failed miserably. He decides to end his own life, but first he goes to purify himself at a public bathhouse. At the bathhouse, he meets the very prosperous Kondo who subsequently suffers a fall, erasing his memory. On a whim, Sakurai switches locker keys, steals the man's belongings and decides to pass himself off as Kondo. What Sakurai does not know is that Kondo runs an illegal business which brings him into contact with ornery yakuza members. Meanwhile, Kondo has been convinced that he is actually the failed actor Sakurai and he faces the dismal reality of that life with increasing bewilderment. Fortunately, at the hospital, he meets the lovely Kanae who, while yearning for marriage, goes out of her way to help Sakurai pull himself together. Eventually Kondo regains his memory, but before he can make a new life with Kanae, he has to solve the many problems caused by his identity theft.

Review

Breezy rhythm, witty dialogue and excellent thesping chemistry --Maggie Lee, Variety

Intelligent, amusing, and casually touching --Kong Rithdee, Cinema Scope

Product Details

  • Actors: Masato Sakai, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Hirosue, Yosiyosi Arakawa, Yoko Moriguchi
  • Directors: Kenji Uchida
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Film Movement
  • DVD Release Date: January 7, 2014
  • Run Time: 128 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00CFODA7O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,311 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Allaer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2013
Format: DVD
I am a big fan of the Film Movement library of foreign and indie movies. In fact, I am a member of their DVD-of-the-Month club and this is the August, 2013 release in that on-going series.

"Key of Life" (2012 release from Japan; 128 min.) brings the story of 3 people and how their lives unexpectedly become intertwined. As the movie opens, we meet Kanae, a 34 yr. old magazine editor who announces boldly that she is getting married in two months. The only problem left to solve is to find a suitable candidate-husband... Afterwards we meet Takeshi, a 35 yr. old aspiring actor who is down on his luck and we just saw failing miserably when he tried to commit suicide. Last we meet Kondo, a ruthless hit man whom we see carrying out his latest hit. Takeshi and Kondo end up going to the same public bathhouse, and when Kondo slips on a soap bar, he hits his head very hard, and loses all memory. In an impulse, Takeshi switches locker keys, and in effect switches identities with Kondo, of course not realizing that he is stepping into the identity of a hit man. Kanae visits the hospital where her father is gravely ill, and where Kondo is recovering. Fate is such that the two meet. To tell you much more of this plot-heavy movie would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Several comments: even though it tackles a lot of serious issues, this movie is first and foremost a comedy, and at very funny one at that. I found myself laughing out loud a number of times during the movie. Second, with the two lead male roles switching identities, I couldn't help but be reminded of that movie from now 30 (!) years ago, "Trading Places" with Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd. "Key of Life" indeed feels like a Japanese variation of the same theme.
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Quirky Japanese film with subtitles. I speak/understand Japanese but even my husband (who does not) understood the humor. It is a comedy about a case of stolen identity and amnesia, complicated by a few other things.... I recommend it highly.
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Format: DVD
In my experience, comedies don’t generally translate all that well from culture to culture. This isn’t necessarily because what one nation finds funny is offensive to another; it’s just that the cadence of delivery tends to get broken down when translated via subtitles onto the movie or TV screen. Physical comedy – general buffoonery and/or physical shtick – tend to convert just fine from one nation to the next, but character-driven stuff? That’s the harder sell mostly because what we see and hear as legitimate comedy doesn’t always ‘read’ well in context.

However, I was pleasantly surprised with KEY OF LIFE. While there are some broader attempts at physical humor in there – along with a wealth of mirth that plays out visually fairly similar to how it was handled in the era of silent film – most of the genuine charm comes from three slightly unhappy souls struggling with all-too-human flaws. One can’t find love. One can’t find work. One can’t find peace. But they’re all looking for love in the wrong places.

(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)

Sakurai (played by a deftly exuberant Masato Sakai) is an underpaid, unemployed actor who – out of desperation – tries to kill himself … only given his proclivity for sweating he fails at that, too! Kondo (a grim Teruyuki Kagawa) is a hitman who’d like nothing better than to lose himself in his love of classical music.
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Format: DVD
Writer/director Kenji Uchida's newest film, KEY OF LIFE, is a crisply written, adroitly directed, beautifully acted little story that is a comedy on the surface, but does not fail to show the other side of the infamous masks of comedy/tragedy. Though it is long (in excess of two hours) the story is presented in such a fine overlapping episodic way that it seems to whiz by to the final moments.

The film opens with a business meeting in which we meet Kanae (Ryôko Hirosue), a 34-year-old magazine editor who announces boldly that she is getting married in two months. Without a candidate for a husband she engages the help of her fellow workers to help her search for the right man during a rather narrow time frame. We next meet Sakuari (Masato Sakai), a 35-year-old aspiring actor who is jobless, living in squalor, and has just failed a suicide attempt. Then we meet Kondo (Teroyuki Kagawa), a wealthy successful hit man carrying out his latest hit. After their simultaneously acts Sakurai and Kondo end up going to the same public bathhouse: Kondo slips on a bar of soap, sustains a concussion, is taken to a hospital where he discovers he has complete amnesia. The somewhat desperate Sakuari switches locker keys, and in effect switches identities with Kondo, of course not realizing that he is stepping into the identity of a hit man. Kanae visits the hospital where her father (who expects his daughter to marry soon) is gravely ill - the same hospital where Kondo is recovering. Fate is such that the two meet.
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