Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 7:11 pm 
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Preview. Full review post-US release here.


Guilt, murder, penance, revenge flow through four or five hours of elegant, restrained Japanese horror from Kiyoshi Kurosawa in his TV mini-series

This is planned as a US theatrical release, a prospect some reviewers think unpromising. Hollywood Reporter's overview (Deborah Young): "Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s made-for-TV serial drama Penance is a wild, uneven ride through the oddities of the Japanese psyche, as much as it is a psychological thriller examining the far-reaching aftereffects of a little girl’s murder. Complexly plotted, elegantly shot and orchestrated, this is the kind of long-winded, intermittently involving festival package that will earn the director of Tokyo Sonata more critical appreciation but will struggle to find a theatrical audience. For a film that requires nearly five hours of viewing investment, it feels terribly stingy on the emotional payoff. Divided into five interlinked chapters, it aired on Wowow television in January, shored up by an all-star cast and the morbid fascination and human interest of best-selling author Kanae Minato’s original book." Derek Elley points out that Minato's previous novel Confessions, powerfully adapted for the screen by Tetsuya Nakashima, is far darker than this, but in either case the moral complexity to which murder seems to lead in Minato's world suits well with Kurosawa's own outlook.

In its subtitled theatrical form the miniseries (AKA Shokuzai), 270 mins., debuted at Venice in August 2012, having shown on Japanese "Wowwow" TV in January. It has also shown at Rotterdam in 2013, and is part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, where it was screened for this review. While Tokyo Sonata (NYFF 2008) was Kurosawa's last feature release, he has a new one, Real, debuting in May 2013 at Cannes, based on a novel by Rokurô Inui.

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