Releasing stateside via Magnolia Pictures, “Shoplifters” is the latest by Japanese master filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda. The drama was received as effusive and heart-wrenching, winning the Palme d’Or this year.

In it, a family of small-time thieves take in a girl whom they find living on the street, and all of the opportunity and trouble ensues as a result. Right away the trailer begins with a sound bridge as we’re given some light jazz drums alongside the floor noise of a busy shop; we arrive in the shop with a documentary-style shot, camera gently swaying to induce a documentary feel. Note how at 0:06, father and son enact a fist bump precisely when the piano enters. At 0:21, the combo is stopped with the introduction of the girl they find playing with some recycled bottles. This first section gains a notable shift in pace at 0:26 with some minimalist pitched percussion played in triple meter, heightening intrigue as to what exactly will happen as the family welcomes the girl into their home. 

At 0:36 a new element of violin appears alongside the director’s title card. The layers of this minimal composition blend and build going forward, judiciously adding staccato and ending with a thud on the lower end of the piano range at 0:49 at the family discovers that “Yuri’s on TV.” Interestingly, the mildly infamous “power station shut down” sound made popular in recently years by Hollywood is used here about a minute into the trailer, just as it goes in harder with its pitch, citing the film as evidence of “the work of a master in full command of his art,” and similarly glowing appraisals. As this occurs the score takes a turn into a soundscape of broad, consonant chords by a string ensemble. The chords take a turn deeper into the low range at 1:15, which proceeds to generally repeat amidst a backdrop of more emotionally charged voiceovers, such as “sometimes, it’s better to choose your own family.” The visual focus for this shift to a more lyrical music is towards a normal, even happy, domestic life.

Notably, although the chord progression for the string section is the submediant, subdominant, tonic, and dominant (one of the most popular, typical chord progressions in popular music history), it ends on the dominant chord, indicating a sense of impermanence or presence in the midst of life. It cuts out to focus on the white noise of waves against the beach, with background sound coming to the fore, not unlike how the trailer began, at least acoustically speaking.

“Shoplifters” releases on November 23rd in theatres.

– Curtis Perry