Japan 2006 Directed & Written by: Masayuki Suo Produced by: Shintaro Horikawa, Yoshino Sasaki, Daisuke Sekiguchi Cinematography: Naoki Kayano Editing: Junichi Kikuchi Music: Yoshikazu Suo Cast: Ryu Kase, Koji Yakusho, Asaka Seto, Kohji Yamamoto, Masako Motai, Tetsushi Tanaka, Ken Mitsuishi, Toshinori Omi, Nao Omori, Ranran Suzuki, Miako Tadano, Miyu Yagyu, Toru Nomaguchi, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Bokuzo Masana
Here’s a very interesting movie from early 2007. It took Masayuki Suo ten years to get back into the director’s chair after his previous movie. Perhaps he was not fully content with the reception of SHALL WE DANCE: while the movie was very successful and generally received positively, it was also mostly seen as a commercial romantic movie when it actually wasn’t like that at all.
SHALL WE DANCE was one of the most authentic accounts of Japanese society and the role of the individual in it ever. SHALL WE DANCE up to now still is the quintessential movie about the social glue of Japan. And Masayuki Suo had well understood how to tell an intellectual story without the look and feel of teaching, packaging his message so well that you could watch the movie in different ways. A perfect Trojan horse: highly effective as romantic drama, therefore an even more successful insight into Japanese lifestyle.
With I JUST DIDN’T DO IT Masayuki Suo took a new cinematic direction, continuing however with his rather intellectual approach: what initially seems to be one of the new wave Fuji TV super blockbusters is in fact another highly controversial film. The simple story deals with a young man who is falsely accused of being a “groper” (this deviant species of Japanese men who shamelessly touch women in overcrowded trains by reaching under their skirts). Suo refrains from making the story more complex to fully concentrate on providing a detailed account of the Japanese juridical system and to dramatize the trial during which our hero is exposed to the incredible madness of Japanese law.
Seeing how very efficient and at the same time how very ineffective the bureaucratic apparatus is almost makes us forget how dramatic all of this really is. Few films are so linear and logically constructed, rarely any movie is so detailed and told with such utmost care, and rarely has this resulted in a film that is more suspenseful, entertaining and impressive. While I JUST DIDN’T DO IT shows the corrosion of the system and is openly criticizing bureaucracy (which is still very unusual for Japan in general) it is astonishing how light and elegant the film feels despite its subject. Everything is just right – the script, acting, direction and production are working together perfectly.
At the same time I JUST DIDN’T DO IT is pretty different from more commercial films of this kind: its tonality is clearly more serious, its black humor and events that couldn’t be more Kafkaesque make us laugh out loud or shake our head in disbelief. Masayuki Suo stays true to his vision and once again presents a relevant topic in its own style: looking at the big picture while at the same time noticing even the smallest detail.
I JUST DIDN’T DO IT is a powerful film about the conflict between individuals and the system, and about the fact that the rights of the individual will always be sacrificed to make sure that the system prevails. This is the true insignificance of the individual in a world that is functioning so perfectly well that the slightest fart would make it collapse. Deviating from the protocol is not an option. Improvisation and adjustment are not part of the plan. So something’s gotta give. Starting with the truth. In dubio pro reo is only possible if the system permits doubt.
I JUST DIDN’T DO IT is great cinema, because it has an opinion. That is important and invaluable. I wish we would see this kind of filmmaking more often.
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