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“Pachinko”, by Soo Hugh: the weight of differences

the pachinko is a kind of vertical pinball very popular with the Japanese. A joystick can influence the flow of the metal balls and gives the player the illusion of controlling their course. The series, and the river novel from which it is taken, borrows its name from it, not only because one of the characters runs a gambling hall, but also because the pachinko perfectly symbolizes the hazardous paths taken by the protagonists, prisoners of a labyrinth of obstacles from which only tenacity and resilience will allow them to escape.

→ CRITICAL. “We the dogs”, trip to the end of Korea

Fortunately, the young Sunja does not lack character. Daughter of an innkeeper who was mocked for her infirmity, she grew up in fear of the Japanese, who reigned supreme over Korea at the start of the 20th century and starved the population. Her destiny changes when she becomes pregnant by an attractive merchant who plays with her. To escape dishonour, she follows a young pastor to Japan, where she will have to face the hostility of the local population.

Eight episodes, four generations

Six decades later, Japanese contempt and resentment of Koreans remain strong. Sunja’s grandson, a young banker full of ambition, will pay the price. Over four generations, Pachinko lifts the veil on an unknown part of the history of the two countries, irreconcilable enemy brothers, without ever losing sight of the intimate trajectory of the characters, magnificently interpreted and filmed as close as possible to their emotions.

Impressive editing work weaves eras together, weaving invisible links between key moments in family history, around the flavor of a bowl of rice or the sensation of bathing in the sea. Sumptuous landscapes of Korea countryside with scenes of desolation from a Tokyo devastated by the 1923 earthquake, this series takes us on a romantic epic with powerful inspiration, while outlining a reflection on the pain of exile, on the strength of family memory and on the weight of unconscious legacies.


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