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Starts more promising than it eventually delivers. Maybe I missed background on Japanese folklore? Satire on police force and family relations kept me awake nevertheless
Saw this at the Rotterdam film festival (IFFR.NL) 2016. The synopsis on the IFFR website exaggerates in promises (start quote) "The most 'political' black-comedy noir from Japan since Oshima's Death By Hanging. Suzuki Yohei's mind-f**k of a movie runs rings around the genre. What makes one suburban family freeze, physically and mentally? Is there a sci-fi explanation? Or is Japan's deep-rooted inertia to blame?" (end quote). Such a synopsis gives the plot a wide scope, which I did not see properly represented in the screenplay, hence an undeserved praise. Maybe it refers to something folkloristic that only Japanese viewers can understand without explanation.
Anyway, the movie takes off very well in showcasing domestic interactions within an average standard family, and also how the father behaved after he was fired, how he did not tell anyone at home, and went on for weeks as if nothing happened. After this who-is-who exposition of the family members involved, some extraordinary object appears in the bedroom of son Tetsuo and his girlfriend Yuriko, distracting them from their intimate activities. The police are called in, and we see how they respond and are confronted with mysterious deaths and a situation that defies any logical explanation. Of course, everyone is very fast in jumping to an easy conclusion. This could have closed the case, were it not that a journalist thinks he is up to something interesting, possibly serving as a stepping stone to improve his future career.
A considerable part of the developments show how this investigative journalist stubbornly proceeds to reveal the truth, against all official explanations that the father was deeply ashamed when having to confess he lost his job, after which he held son and girlfriend hostage. When seeing that this could not end the hostage in a productive way, and when one of the police men came too near, he grabbed a police gun and killed himself. Long before all that we watched an early scene already, wherein something very different happened. The journalist has to stand up against colleagues and surviving family members to get the real truth about what happened.
How he progresses is a very entertaining watch. It is mingled with several hilarious scenes, obviously intended as satire on Japanese society. Given that, I must admit to finding the final scenes disappointing after all what happened before we reached the finale. It doesn't arrive at an acceptable solution by far. I consider it a missed chance to get something useful out of the very original plot that looked promising from the outset. Also, I'm still not clear why the IFFR website (see above quote) had to widen the scope so overly broad. It all seems far-fetched for a non-Japanese viewer like me, making me think that I missed some essential background information to come to a better understanding. Maybe the festival programmer knew more than I did when describing the movie, but that can be no excuse for elevating our expectations and causing an anti-climax as a result. The average IMDb user rating (currently 5.1 based on 19 votes) confirms that I'm not alone, and that the festival programmer was wrong with his overly enthusiastic pitch talk.
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