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PostPosted: Sat Jul 25, 2020 11:01 pm 
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NATSUKI NAKAGAWA: BEYOND THE NIGHT (2019) - JAPAN CUTS 2020

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KENTA YAMAGISHI IN BEYOND THE NIGHT

Brooding and murder in the country: 'Hedda Gabbler' in the style of Robert Bresson

Nakagawa’s graduation film from the Department of Body Expression and Cinematic Arts at Rikkyo University, She Is Alone, won the SKIP City Award at the Skip City D-Cinema International Film Festival 2018. Beyond the Night was produced in Tokyo University of the Arts’ Graduate School of Film and New Media, Department of Film Production.

In this new film, Toyama Mikiro (Kenta Yamagishi) is a strange young man who goes to the country from Tokyo to avenge the older sister of his girlfriend, Saori. He kills a man called Ishikawa, though we don't see him do it and he doesn't seem to get caught. Along the way he falls for the dreamy, strange Sotoko (Saki Tanaka), who's in an abusive relationship with Atsuya (Yasuhiro Isobe), who's also strange. Toyama seems drawn to Sotoko and gradually she is drawn to him, but she can't give up being with Atsuya. Back in Tokoyo off and on, Toyama sees Saori, who when she learns what he has done calls him a "creep" and wants noting to do with him. Sotoko gets Toyama beaten up. He gives her a ring related to his girlfriend to throw away. She tosses it in the river.

The film, which is so stylized it seems stilted (is Nakagawa a fan of Bresson or Eugène Green?), plays with archetypes. The name "Sotoko" alludes to "beyond" or "outside," and there is a constant contrast between the country and the city, though Toyama tells Saori, with the air of having made a discovery, that there are bad people everywhere. (He seems to think there is even more corruption in the country.) Sotoko tells an office mate who wants to move to Tokyo that if she does she'll just do the same things there. A detective tells Sotoko more or less the same thing.

The festival blurb says the " encounter" between Sotoko and the boy from the city introduces "an eroticism with a violent edge" that threatens to "slash apart her toxic marriage" with "the abusive Atsuya" and his "web of small town corruption". However (it goes on) "Nakagawa renders this pulpy premise in deadpan realism." Perhaps the premise is "pulpy." But the language of the blurb, which says the film "pierces the uncanny surface of physical reality" to access "the turmoil of humans' inner desires," is pulpier than the movie, which is very, very far from "deadpan realism," though deadpan it is. What is true is that the film is "structured" (bracketed) "with repeated scenes in a moonlit forest," and Sotoko is seen lurking there.

With cinema in this style, actors aren't expected to act; hence Bresson called his non-actor cast members "models." For the most part Yamagishi and Tanaka just have to look pretty and broody and speak their lines in a deadpan manner, yet with a certain conviction that they're not just being ridiculous. Key action is filmed in the forest mainly because the director doesn't want to stage it in real time and space. Sotoko is a neurotic wife somewhat in the tradition of Hedda Gabler, a woman who cannot be happy and drives men crazy. But Nakagawa's world, unlike Ibsen's, is drained of social reality. This is not a fully realized film or one likely to appeal to most people. Perhaps Nakagawa will do better next time.

Beyond the Night, 93 mins., was screened for this review in the Next Generation section of the all virtual 2020 Japan Cuts festival.

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The festival is entirely online this year. Anyone in the US can watch it, paying a small fee for each individual film, from July 17-30, 2020. Go HERE to access the films
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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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