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PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2022 2:39 pm 
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KAZUYA SHIRAISHI: LESSON IN MURDER 死刑にいたる病 (Japan, 2022) - NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL, JULY 15-31, 2022

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KENSHI OKADA, SADAWO ABE IN LESSON IN MURDER

TRAILER

Warning: depicts torture

AS the veteran Tokyo-based film critic Mark Schilling points out in his Japan Times review, this film is one of many offshoots of Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs. Thus it depicts a gruesome, smart serial killer, Haimura Yamato (Sadawo Abe) who from death row plays with an inexperienced young investigator, Masaya Kakei (Kenshi Okada). This time instead of Jodie Foster's inexperienced but highly motivated FBI agent it's a handsome law student the convicted killer used to know as a young customer at his pastry shop whom he lures into studying his "work," and then teases and manipulates. In the course of this there is a detailed review of the personality and the crimes of the killer and the private affairs of his young "adversary." As Schilling says there are different movies mashed together in Lesson in Murder. Its enthusiastic exploration of meticulous tortures and murders of teenagers ill fits with its family dramas and coming of age tale.

For those who find Silence of the Lambs' fascination wIth its odious champion killer repellant, Lesson in Murder won't have much charm. Demme's film sold lots of tickets, but it was was picketed with good cause for its transphobic and homophobic elements. I couldn't forgive its use of Bach's Goldberg Variations as background music for a gleefully meticulous murder. There was deep perversity in this movie. Demme had a screw loose. The pious, boring AIDS flick Philadelphia didn't make up for the homophobia of Lambs. Lesson in Murder if free of these taints, it simply depicts a twisted killer and has scenes of him torturing his victims that are realistic and nightmarish.

While Jodie Foster's intensity and caring are positive, relatable elements in Demme's film, Schilling points out the weaknesses of the young investigator character in Lesson in Murder. Okada has little acting experience and is simply too handsome to seem plausible as the awkward, friendless, repressed young man Yamada is supposed to be: he seems to be explaining his character rather than embodying him. But of course Okada is easy on the eyes. He makes something pleasant to look at during the scenes of procedural investigation and the prison meetings between Yamada and the killer.

The motival thread for the action, which is based on a novel by Riu Kushiki, is provided by Yamato's insistence that the 24th of the 24 murders he's accused of is one he didn't do, though he admits to all the rest. At Yamato's prompting, Masaya carries out his own personal investigation to verify this claim, energized by the fact that he hates his school, which he considers very inferior. He wants to prove himself, perhaps discover himself. There is a lot to be learned about him. . .

The NYAFF previously included Shiraishi's 2018 yakuza movie The Blood of Wolves. (reviewed here at the time).

Lesson in Murder 死刑にいたる病 ("Sickness Unto Death"), 128 mins., opened in Japan May 6, 2022. Screened for this review at the 2022 NYAFF. North American premiere.

NYAFF SHOWING: Thursday Jul 21, 2022 at 9:30pm (Walter Reade Theater, Film at Lincoln Center)

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