Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Zero Focus

“Teiko (Yoshiko Kuga), a new bride in an arranged marriage, sees her husband off on a trip to wrap up his business affairs in Kanazawa in western Japan before returning to start a new project in Tokyo. When he disappears, Teiko goes to Kanazawa and ultimately to the ruggedly mountainous Noto peninsula to find out what happened to him. With the help of police and an investigator from her husband's company, she discovers a web of deceit (…).”

(Text from the Turner Classic Movies' article)

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

I recorded this b&w Japanese film noir on my PVR late sunday night from TCM and have watched it yesterday. I really liked it: it's an interesting and beautiful mystery crime movie. I was hesitant at first to watch it because the label “film noir” made me expect a sort of violent and sordid movie, but after all it was nothing like that. It was the typical calm and beautifully shot Japanese movie that I like to watch.

The story follows a recently wed woman who's looking into the disappearance of her husband who went on a business trip and never came back. She slowly investigates his past to discover that he was not the man she thought he was. She realized that, after all, she knew little of him. He was living a double life and this complicated situation was forcing him into hard choices. She travels from one region of Japan to another, making us discover a Japanese countryside that doesn't exist anymore.

In a very similar way to Rashomon, we see the protagonists various point of view as well as the woman's theories on the fate of her husband. Is he alive or dead? Was it suicide or murder? Who did it and why? The reconstruction of the events keeps changing, sometime unexpectedly. The storytelling is quite skillfully woven.

The director, Yoshitaro Nomura, was born into the movie industry as his father directed many silence movies. He started as an assistant to Akira Kurosawa and had a prolific career at Shochiku, shooting eighty-nine films in all genres but having a definite preference for crime drama. He also often adapted to the screen novels by mystery writer Yoshitaro Nomura. It is a shame that he is not well known by western movie fans. There is a 2009 remake of this movie directed by Isshin Inudo.

You can find a trailer of the movie on Youtube (in Japanese only, but a subtitled trailer is also available on Video detective):

Actually, you can even watch on Youtube the whole movie (again, in Japanese only and split in seven parts):

Zero Focus (ゼロの焦点 / Zero no shoten): Japan, 1961, B&W, 95 min.; Dir.: Yoshitaro Nomura; Scr.: Shinobu Hashimoto & Yoji Yamada (based on the novel of the same title by Seicho Matsumoto); Phot.: Takashi Kawamata; Ed.: Yoshiyasu Hamamura; Cost. Des.: Yuji Nagashima; Art dir.: Koji Uno; Mus.: Yasushi Akutagawa; Prod.: Ichinozuke Hosumi, Shigero Wakatsuki; Cast: Yoshiko Kuga (Teiko Uhara), Hizuro Takachiho (Sachiko Murota/Emmy), Ineko Arima (Hisako Tanuma), Koji Nanbara (Kenichi Uhara), Ko Nishimura (Sotaro Uhara), Sadako Sawamura ( Sotaro's wife), Yoshi Kato (Mr. Murota), Tatsuo Nagai (Lt. Kitamura); Available on Dvd from Home Vision Entertainment.
For more information you can visit the following websites:

Zero Focus © 1961 Shochiku Co., Ltd.

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