aka: Jiken, 事件
Director: Yoshitaro Nomura
My Rating: 8.0/10
A young man stands trial for murdering of a woman, he admits to committing the crime.. however he seems unable to recall the actual killing..
The continuation of the story revolves around the trial. The dynamic of judge, jury, prosecutors and witnesses – with brief throwbacks to flesh out the backstory. Is the charged man guilty(?), or is he covering up for someone else – through given information, external motives can pretty much be established towards the persons (with a relationship to the charged man or murdered woman) taking the stand.
As it turns out the murdered woman was the older sister of a woman the man had a relationship with (also the two are expecting a child). She also had a relationship with a local blackmailer. Playing off both potential jealousy but also a negative social status, just as an example of how things are kept non-generic and interesting.
The norm of japanese mysteries (around the time-period – in my experience so far) is usually more old fashioned (nothing negative about it!) for example a Kosuke Kindaichi mystery (like The Inugami Family or The Devil’s Flute) or something like Tai Kato’s The Beast in the Shadows.. but here’s an equally great/or better one in current time setting.
My now second (and second review on here) Yoshitaro Nomura movie, this one to me is more focused then the previous and to me the ending has a big payoff (rather low-key but unusual) and the way there is kept interesting. In other words a slow burner that is well worth seeking out!
aka: Onna Jigoku: Mori wa Nureta, 女地獄 森は濡れた
Director: Tatsumi Kumashiro
My Rating: 7.5/10
A woman is on the run accused of murdering her mistress. Eventually, after three days, she starts regaining her senses and thinks she can forget about the murder if heading back to town. On the way back she gets picked up by a Noble Lady, eventually, offering her to stay at her mountain hotel for a couple of days. Upon arrival the Noble Lady ques the woman in on her cruel husband and her unhappiness but also she is willing to share her legacy and servants with her – however, the situation quickly takes a turn as the husband knows about the woman’s identity.. Blackmail and depravity ensues..!
To me one of Kumashiro’s better efforts (after Pleasure Campus, Secret Games and Lovers are Wet). I like the where it starts, it’s kind of brief but the backstory is enough to make the movies one major set-piece work and, atleast to me, that’s really what it’s all about (for it’s time – this scene, and the following one, is really something in the depravity scales, even in todays standards!).
I’ll have to say I appreciated the movie more this time around, I have small gripe with the setting – there’s kind of a cultureclash where the european inspiration feels partly embraced. The major negative (which supposedly is a statement of censorship) is the black bars used to censor nudity, impossible not to be distractive. One of the many great things about Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno series though is it’s diversity, even threading into Sadean territory – it’s no Eugenie… the Story of Her Journey into Perversion but still a pretty good one that easily goes recommended.
aka: Jigokuhen, 地獄変
Director: Shiro Toyoda
My Rating: 9.5/10
A tyrannical lord wants the walls of his temple to be painted with images of buddha and heaven. He is unable to assign the task to a korean painter who only “paints-what-he-sees” – seeing how the common man (or slave) is treated under the lords outspoken desire for glory – the painter is only able to draw his nightmarish visions. The painter denies his daughter from seeing a japanese man, whom she truly loves, inevitably leading to the lord taking a liking to his daughter at first sight. Eventually the lord will assign the painter the task of painting a ‘portrait of hell’…
There is a progressive feel to how to the film is shot which reflects the story, starting of with beautiful rural landscape scenery, cherry blossoms and bright costumes.. eventually shifting to darkness, rivers of blood, sometimes pitch black scenery with an overhanging feeling of dread and doom. The fantastical elements to the story allows for a “dimension” of fantasy/horror further enhancing the story!…
To me the partly theatrical acting works great (mainly the daughter, but also present in some longer dialogue scenes) as some scenes are more dialogue heavy but also working well with the period-setting. I can’t fault a thing about this movie, finding movies like this one is my reason for dedication – familiar, yet unique. I’m a sucker for “downbeat” ‘slowly unfolding’ progressive stories that is set to “explode” and this one goes highly recommended.
(As a headsup – there is a cut in the UK Artsmagic DVD. I grabbed this version regardless. INFO: http://bbfc.co.uk/releases/portrait-hell “Compulsory cut required under the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act of 1937 to sight of cock fighting.“)
aka: Mayonaka no shôtaijô, 真夜中の招待状
Director: Yoshitaro Nomura
My Rating: 7.5/10
A woman visits a psychiatrist, not for herself but for her fiancee whose three brothers have mysteriously vanished. Without hesitation the psychiatrist starts the investigation and is early on lead to various clues (such as a common dream shared among the brothers, and seemingly coincidental dates of when they all disappeared)..
Well produced and well crafted mystery simply put. There’s a constant slowly unfolding development of the mystery early on. Many of the clues points towards the subconscious (Jung being cited etc) as well as a handful of characters are introduced along the way to keep things interesting. The only negative to me was when things are about to come together it gets sort of trailing and a bit repetitive, although the ending ties everything neatly together.
A first (and certainly not the last) for me from seemingly prolific director Yoshitaro Nomura. Mostly recommended.. slightly generous rating from me..