Posts Tagged ‘Tetta Sugimoto’



JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Takeshi Kitano Written by: Takeshi Kitano  Produced by: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida  Cinematography by: Katsumi Yanagijima  Editing by: Takeshi Kitano  Music by: Keiichi Suzuki  Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomoko Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Tsukamoto, Yuka Itaya, Hideo Nakano, Renji Ishibashi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Soichiro Kitamura

An “entertaining” movie he wanted to make, Takashi Kitano said about OUTRAGE. A movie with no other ambition than that, a movie not even marking a return to the Yakuza genre. Something quite different from the preceding films.

In many ways OUTRAGE quite well corresponds to Mr. Kitano’s intentions. It was Mr. Kitano himself who delivered the swan song of the Yakuza movie two decades ago – interpreting OUTRAGE as a movie depicting a changing world where the old code of honor is worth nothing would mean to ignore the oeuvre of Mr. Kitano (as well as that of many other directors). Hailing OUTRAGE as a milestone of the genre, or as an epic story about the system individuals operate within, as well as the rules they abide by, would be nothing but evidence of ignorance.

Watching OUTRAGE is a bit of a time machine experience: we are revisiting places, characters and motifs of Mr. Kitano’s milestones, all amid a permanent conflict of signals the film sends. Is that shirt or that suit actually from the 80’s? But then why is that car from the 2000’s? There are obsolete characters in a modern world, and then there are contemporary characters in an obsolete world. It’s a constant struggle, also for the writer-director Takeshi Kitano. It seems like the cast from VIOLENT COP was beamed into modern-day Japan.

But what exactly is the difference between now and then? What has changed? Not much, I have to say. People kill for money, or for revenge, or for power. At some point Mr. Kitano rephrases the motif for violence as being “career”: a term that fits to times like these, where people spend 80% of their time on playing politics in corporations, positioning themselves and lying their asses off, while only spending 5% of their time actually working (the other 15% are spent on facebook @work). Nevertheless, climbing up the social ladder is what it’s always been about, and the way to get there doesn’t differ much from how it happened in Mr. Kitano’s earlier films. The permanent betrayal is nothing but an amplification of what we have seen before, and it much more has become a means of dramaturgy that drives the film forward than it being the actual subject of the movie. Betrayal doesn’t indicated loss of values in the Yakuza universe anymore, it merely indicates plot points.

For Otomo (or whatever he was called before) things don’t change however, and he doesn’t participate in change. Change is for the others. Betrayal comes as a surprise. He is a guy who cuts his finger off first and only later finds out that he did it for someone who deceived him. And he hasn’t realized yet that cutting off fingers just doesn’t cut it anymore anno 2010 in the first place. What makes him an anachronism also makes him the biggest threat to the “career Yakuza”: he doesn’t live for tomorrow, he lives for the past. The good old days are preserved within the Otomo character as he acts by their rules and their ethics and applies that school of thought to a world that has evolved.

Otomo doesn’t oppose progress (he doesn’t care enough about it), but he is the force that prevents it from happening (even though the world moves on without him finally). What Mr. Kitano doesn’t make clear is if OUTRAGE now is a statement for or against progress, or if it just laments that the world changes indeed with or without us, or if it’s an advice to adapt or if it’s about the survival of the fittest, whatever that means at a specific point in time.

Maybe OUTRAGE is a melancholic statement that there’s nothing left worth fighting for, or it’s the same statement made before, that idealists are a dying breed. But most probably it’s none of the above, but instead what Mr. Kitano set out to do in the first place: rock-solid entertainment that plays with genre conventions rather than making any statement or providing any new insights at all. OUTRAGE, maybe for the first time, is really a genre movie, not the genre-bending Kitano movie we all know.







JAPAN 2009   Directed by: Isshin Inudo Novel: Seicho Matsumoto Written by: Isshin Inudo, Kenji Nakazono  Cinematography: Takahiro Tsutai Editing: Soichi Ueno  Music: Koji Ueno  Cast: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Ryoko Hirosue, Takeshi Kaga, Miki Nakatani, Tetta Sugimoto

Who would have thought that the writer of Kitamura’s VERSUS would do movies like ZERO FOCUS. Isshin Inudo’s latest work – a remake of the 1961 original – tells the story of Sadako whose husband Kenichi leaves for business to Kanazawa and never returns. Since no one has an answer to where he might be and why he has disappeared, Sadako travels to Kanazawa herself to find out about what happened. Most people in Kanazawa are not exactly supportive, but she finds some allies who help her find out more. She slowly comes to realize that she doesn’t know much about her husband who she met through a matchmaker at all, and that Kenichi has led a double life for the past 18 months of their marriage. But this only the tip of the iceberg: very soon she will be involved in the hunt for a serial killer, local politics and her husbands past that all turn out to be all intertwined.

ZERO FOCUS is still set in 1957 and as remake I would have wished for more innovation than repeating the look of the original. However, as this is the 21st century I must admit that the retro-look works splendid and adds a visual quality that would have not been the same if the story was transported into the present. The story is of course largely influenced by the post-war era, so much of the reasons behind what happens is directly influenced by what Japan was like after the WWII.

This also explains why ZERO FOCUS to some extend is a film about Japan’s past and a historic recollection of Japan’s society and politics. Just like other eras have influenced people’s life the post-war years have left their mark and create an interesting backdrop for the film’s intrigues. As the movie develops from subtle drama into crime thriller it more and more reminds us of Alfred Hitchcock’s works that without a doubt have been the blueprint for ZERO FOCUS, then and now. If Hitchcock had been Japanese, this is how he’d done it. His spirit, tonality and techniques are more than apparent, more than just once.

Different from the original the 2010 version is now featuring full color, so Inudo is also adopting a bit of Nicholas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW here with his killer dressed in red and a preference for the color red and strong shadows throughout the film. I must admit though that it all works: Inudo has created a beautiful, captivating movie that at times is visually almost too attractive and aesthetic and distracts from what’s going on. And since this isn’t VERSUS indeed, the pace is slow, almost graceful, reflecting many of the classic virtues of Japanese cinema; at the same time it painstakingly recreates a world long gone and a style of filmmaking that’s hard to find today.

The story then is intelligently written and embedded well into the historic context, but during the last third it feels like either the pace of the film is too slow as we’d wish to get to the point faster, or the story is not surprising enough so that it’s not worth the wait. That doesn’t mean that there’s anything fundamentally wrong here, but most movie goers will have to get used to the (un)balance towards the end.

ZERO FOCUS is a welcome change in menu: a film that feels like solid oak rather than laminate. It has an enormous intensity, yet feels at ease. Everyone will have to decide for him/herself if it was worth remaking the original, or if the crime drama is convincing enough, or if the pace should have been different. I for once say all good things take time, and given the huge amount of films that think that spectacular editing can cover up substantial flaws it is refreshing to see someone going against trends.

It takes courage to tell a story like Inudo does with ZERO FOCUS. ZERO FOCUS is not a film that can be watched over and over, but watching it once is a qualitative experience you don’t want to miss.