Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Japanese Cinema: Tetsuya Nakashima

Over the past decade, Japanese cinema has been experiencing something of a renaissance not seen since the heyday of Godzilla and Akira Kurosawa. Oscar winning films like 2008's Departures (Okuribito, おくりびと)...

...or Hayao Miyazaki's hugely successful Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, 千と千尋の神隠し) (2001), have sparked international interest and inspired accolades.

Director/Actor Takeshi Kitano has gained recognition as a provocateur with enormous breadth in such films as Kikujiro (Kikujirō no Natsu, 菊次郎の夏) (1999) and Zatōichi (座頭市) (2003):

...paving the way for a younger director like Hideo Nakata to explore more forbidden territory:

Along with Nakata, another current enfant terrible is Tetsuya Nakashima.

Nakashima is to Japan as Quentin Tarantino was to the U.S. with the release of Pulp Fiction back in 1994. His films are the familiar made strange, the detritus of the culture exacerbated and mashed together. With Memories of Matsuko (Kiraware Matsuko no Isshō, 嫌われ松子の一生) (2006), Nakashima created something truly remarkable and moving:

His latest, Confessions (Kokuhaku, 告白) (2010), is visually just as striking, but not as emotionally relevant. It's a cold and murderous revenge tale that relies too much on a speak-over narrative to propel its momentum. Too often Nakashima leaves holes and expects a willing suspension of disbelief to relieve him of any burden to explain. The result is an unconvincing and somewhat plodding thriller.

Confessions was short listed for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Oscars, but didn't make the final cut. It furthers the tired trope of 2000's sensational Battle Royale that posits adolescents as the enemy of humankind, a sort of Blackboard Jungle remixed for the cyber generation.

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