February 11, 2016

Wendy and Lucy [2008] – A Poignant Piece that Glows with Quiet Intensity

                                             Vittorio De Sica, the leading figure of Italian Neorealist movement, in 1952 made one of his masterpiece feature-films “Umberto D”, which was about an old government pensioner, dwelling in a cheap room with his dog, in post-war impoverished Italy. The film impeccably focused on the everyday reality of a person hanging on the edges of a society that could be indifferent, cruel as well as humane. American indie film-maker Kelly Reichardt’s“Wendy and Lucy” (2008), adapted from Jonathan Raymond’s short story, seems like the descendant of that timeless movie. Although “Wendy and Lucy” couldn’t be classified as the most outstanding work like De Sica’s film, it perfectly works as a resonant, little mood piece which isn’t burdened with a plot.

                                           If you are intent on watching movies based only on story line, then Reichardt’s film could be described like this: Wendy (Michelle Williams), a young drifter with her dog Lucy, sets out to Alaska in her car. En route in Oregon, the car breaks down and the dog gets lost, and so the young girl spends her time rooting out those problems. Some may guffaw at the plot and some may think that nothing much happens in the movie. But, I felt that “Wendy and Lucy” is one of the well-crafted indie films in recent times that crisply observe the reality of small cruelties and fleeting kindness. We could read in plenty of socioeconomic and political perspective from the film (it was especially made during financial destitute period of our generation), but the moving aspect here is the well grounded humane perspective. Humans’ basic need for love and connection is absolutely condensed into the narrative’s social commentaries and it is all done, without a single frame of manipulative melodrama.

                                           Director Kelly Reichardt first gained festival circuit attention for her 2006 low-key, camping trip movie “Old Joy” (although my favorite of Reichardt’s work is “Meek’s Cutoff” (2010), an enigmatic anti-western). Reichardt, with her minimal imagery always focuses on the little things, which gradually forms into bits to what we call as ‘life’. Rather than driving us towards a set of emotions, she is more content to let us find our own way through the nuanced characterizations. By stripping dramatic high-points from the plot, director Reichardt makes us to look beyond what’s happening on-screen and to relate with the sense of place and subsequent human interactions. The lack of striking emotional quality in the film may easily make us to categorize it as ‘art film’, which many would relate with words ‘boring’ and ‘slow-moving’. However, I took in all these little moments “Wendy and Lucy” and it all left me with a great emotional weight. I felt compassion, coldness and yearning without the director and writer blatantly trying to make me feel those emotions.

                                        The defeat and desperation that came with the economic downturn is subtly ingrained in Reichadt’s visuals: can-collecting homeless; brain-sick wanderers; train-hopping exuberant youngsters; and marginally employed old men capture the range of suffering and humiliation. The frames are fixed and keenly take in small and telling details. The meticulously maintained expense notebook, fogged mirror of the rest-room, the smug store clerk picked up by his parents, the ‘all-is-business’ attitude of mechanic shop owner patiently indicates at the humanity or the lack of it, around Wendy. And, as in classic neo-realist tradition, “Wendy and Lucy” becomes rich in character and mood because of the central performance. The profound level of nuance, Michelle Williams exhibit may not have brought her any big awards, but the way she downplays the emotions of frustration and despair works more like a fascinating poem rather than being outwardly persuasive. She never asks for our pity; she isn’t the hard-minded, philosophical person like Christopher McCandless in “Into the Wild” (2007), but as Williams tip-toes around all of Wendy’s tribulations, she gains our empathy as well as respect. That doesn’t mean that Wendy is championed in this narrative. We also learn about her estrangement (with sister) and left to think about the foremost little flaw (which sets up the entire catastrophe).  The other genial, understated performance comes from Wally Dalton as the security guard.

                                        “Wendy and Lucy” (80 minutes) is a beautiful, heart-breaking film that goes for profound emotions and conscientious details rather than taking the easy way of sentimentality. Wendy doesn’t do much, but what she goes through gave me an ultimately rewarding experience.


February 10, 2016

Winchester ’73 [1950] – Profound and Influential Western Movie

                                              It would have been thought of as an unusual choice to make James Stewart play a frontier protagonist in Western genre. Although Stewart has been in quite a few crime films before the start of 1950 (for eg, “Rope”), he is best known or personified for his desperate and honorable lead characters (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “The Shop Around the Corner”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, etc).  In Anthony Mann’s noirish Western “Winchester ’73” (1950), Stewart played a character that was more furious, cynical and even ruthless unlike his previous roles. Over the next five years, Stewart and director Mann collaborated for seven more films, of which four belongs to Western genre (Stewart knew Mann from his early theater days).

                                             Before the making of “Winchester ’73”, Mann was predominantly known as a noir director (“Side Street”, “T-Men”). His well stylized films featured strong villains, malevolent surroundings and anguished heroes. By 1950, when director Mann made his leap into frontier movies, his features resonated with the same noir sensibilities, and also withheld rich, complex psychological undertones, which transcended certain Western genre trappings. As always, Mann’s protagonist, Lin McAdam in “Winchester ‘73” is an intelligent man who unrelentingly pursues for justice, even if he has to traverse through dark psychological disputes. The central plot of the film involves guns and Native Americans like many routine frontier movies of the era revolved around. There are also easily identifiable archetypal sub-genres in the plot – revenge and chase movie. But, still Mann’s directorial style maturely probes into his characters’ subconscious unlike other gung-ho, gun-crazy flicks.

                                           The movie opens with typical wide-shot, where two tiny figures are seen riding along a ridge. Nevertheless, as the story line progresses, things become more claustrophobic and profound. The two riding men – Lin McAdam (James Stewart) and High-Spade (Millard Mitchell) -- reach Dodge City and the long view of the streets indicates that it is a city extending in all directions. It is 1876 and the day of ‘Big Centennial Celebration’. The duo has come for the sharp-shooting contest as well as to look out for Lin’s arch-enemy, a shady guy named Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen McNally). The first prize for the winner is a much coveted 1873 ‘One-of-a-Thousand’ Winchester rifle (famously known as ‘gun that won the west’; US President Grant had one). The local sheriff Wyatt Earp (Will Geer) shows the two men around the town, before confiscating their guns, an ingrained local law applicable for all.

                                         Lin walks into a bar looking out for Dutch. He sees Dutch and Dutch sees Lin, and as a reflex response the gun-less men attempt to draw their guns. The whole of Lin’s dispute with Dutch isn’t revealed, but there’s a talk of Dutch ‘shooting a man in the back’. It all looks like an age-old contrivance, but there is a fine visual control and diffusion of tense moments that we don’t concentrate much on the familiarity. The contest ensues and both Lin & Dutch repeatedly hit on the bull’s eye, vying for the Winchester. Eventually Lin wins the rifle, but Dutch’s obsession for the object drives him to steal it from Lin. Later, Dutch is aced by gun trader in a card game, who claims the Winchester. The gun trader meets a bad end, and so a trail starts, where we observe the desired rifle going through the hands of a young woman Lola (Shelley Winters), her fiance Steve and a psychotic outlaw Waco Johnny Dean (Dan Duryea). The characters who encounter the rifle are awestruck and it also brings out bad luck & dark desires.

                                         Without any doubt, we could call this film an ostensible tale. And, there are also plenty of loose descriptions like “All white men are thieves. In peace, they steal our land; in war, they steal our woman”, “An Indian would sell his soul to own one [Winchester]”. These anticipated aspects of the movie, under the hands of another director, certainly wouldn’t have charged into thematic depths. But, director Mann regardless of the predictability factor sets up each sequence that burns with a fierce intensity and makes it up as a skillful character study.  Borden Chase’ script amply arranges the forward motion of narrative, although it is Mann who had masterly weaved an atmosphere of claustrophobia and tautness.

                                            Mann’s vision of old west totally lacks the romanticized elements. His protagonist becomes increasingly pragmatic and his quest takes darker notes. Love, one of the quintessential aspects in Westerns, is either absent or remains in a twisted form. The love between siblings has eroded; Lola’s love for Steve or vice-versa is questionable, right from the first time we see them. With Steve’s act of cowardice, the elemental romance is fully exhausted. Mann is also fascinated by observing consequences of a human action as well as human reactions. During the quest, High-Spade questions Lin McAdam on ‘whether he is beginning to like the vengeful mission or whether the dead would have liked it’. High-Spade also asks “What happens when the hunt is over?” These mature questions contemplating the aftermath and the past usually have no place in Westerns that are always defined by its macho principles. Shelley Winters’ Lola too rises above the usual dispensable woman characters of this genre. Her nonchalant looks after getting abducted by Waco subtly hints at her futile past in the frontier.

                                              Director Mann is also at his best, when crafting those boisterous action sequences. The battle between the army and Native Americans plus the final hill-side gun fight are loaded with a bewitching, gritty tone. James Stewart shines at one of his earlier darker characters. He is convincingly menacing when twisting the arm of Waco Dean and he perfectly imbues sadness to his actions. Mann, despite all his noir sensibilities, might seem to indicate at a happier ending, but the final shot of the perfect rifle and the fade out to a black screen makes us question on whether Lin would really have a sense of happiness in his life.

                                               “Winchester ’73” (92 minutes) is a classic Western that diffuses psychological overtones into what we would otherwise call as a ‘simple, gun-crazy genre’. It set the bar for other innumerable, mature takes on Old West. 



February 9, 2016

A Humane Factory Girl Matching-Up with the Inhumane, Drab World

Spoilers Ahead……….

                              “When you give everything only to find disappointment, the burden of memories gets too hard to bear……”

                               “Oh, If only I could reach that dreamland some day. Then I’d never, ever fly from that paradise away. But, no, unlike the birds, I’m a prisoner of Earth………”

                                               There exists an inherent urge within all of us to express ourselves or identify ourselves through music & songs. Music is something that embodies all the universal themes of what it means to be a human being. Our feelings of love, joy and heartbreak resonate beautifully or soulfully when words move in rhythm. Those aforementioned lines are taken from a musical performance used in masterful Finnish film-maker Aki Kaurismaki’s fascinating and sharp dark comedy “The Match Factory Girl” (1990). The singer yearning for a ‘dreamland’ or soliloquizing about the eternal human ‘disappointment’ says a lot about the movie’s central character Iris, since she is a woman totally unable to assert her feelings through words. If not for those lamentable lyrics, we would be lost in Iris’ rigid, drab universe.

                                             “The Match Factory Girl” opens with a quote from French author Sergeanne Golon’s ‘Angelique’ series books. The quote reads, “Most likely they have died of cold and hunger. Far away there in the middle of the forest.” The relevance of ‘Angelique’ is bit hard for me to connect with Iris, although we see Angelique book series in the bookshelf of the movie’s protagonist. Critic Anton Bitel of ‘Eye for Film’ provided the relevance. Countess Angelique is the primary character in the series of period novels, which is all about a young woman taking up revenge on those who have done her wrong. With Iris eradicating the ‘rats’ in her life towards the end, we could understand her relation with Angelique. But, unlike the countess figure from period novel, Iris’ life style lacks the epic quality and more or less drenched in gloomy pessimism of modern Scandinavia.

                                            Despite the ‘girl’ in the title, Iris (played by Kati Outinnen – one of the actors to best personify what we could call as ‘Kaurismaki glumness’) is actually a woman in her late twenties (or may be early thirties). The opening sequences showcase the process for manufacturing and packaging matches (from wood log to match boxes). The dull, monotonous humdrum of the machines is perfectly matched by pale-faced Iris, whose job seems to make sure that the labels atop the matchboxes are firmly affixed as those roll past her in assembly line. The Helsinki woman’s house address is ’44, Factory Lane’, so the monotonous nature of the factory plagues her at home too. She cooks, serves food to emotionally drained mother and step-father, cleans, reads and sleeps. Each and every moment at home is imbued with the same precision of machines at factory. Well, of course Iris is ready for a change. She applies make-up and decides to visit a local dancing hall, where she is left alone solemnly, watching with her washed out face, at other dancing pairs.

                                          Iris’ face may not suddenly restore color, even though she wants a change. But, then she buys up a red dress after receiving the monthly salary to add up some color to her life. In the salary envelope cover she gives to mother, the bill for the dress is placed. Mother and step-father looks with shock as Iris shows her beautiful red dress. Step-father slaps, calling her ‘whore’ (and this is the first line spoken by step-father in the film -- the whole movie is said to have only 24 dialogue lines). Despite parents’ disapproval, Iris goes to music bar in the red dress, desperately searching for a dancing partner. She finds a man named Aarne, a well-to-do businessman. He takes Iris to his posh apartment and leaves up some money in the morning as Iris is still in her rejoiced, slumber state. She leaves him her phone number – the one at the factory, but she receives no call. Iris runs up to Aarne’s apartment to coerce him for another date, which only brings her huge heart-break. When Iris learns about her pregnancy, Aarne asks her to ‘get rid of the brat’, while her parents kick her out. The desolate Iris finds shelter with her elder brother, although no one offer her consolation. Rather than immerse herself in misery, Iris decides to take revenge on humanity, or on the in humaneness of this world.

                                       “The Match Factory Girl” is the third film in Kaurismaki’s “Proletariat Trilogy” (“Shadows in Paradise” (1986) and “Ariel” (1988) are the first two) and in these three films, Kaurismaki neither heightens the nihilistic activities of his proletariat protagonists nor does he exhibit them as a pitiful dupes of the rigid socioeconomic and cultural system. It could be absolutely grasped from Kaurismaki’s fixed camera placement, where the shots are mostly in medium-to-full range. He keeps us at some distance from his characters and then infuses dead pan humor to make us think about the functions of these lives. The humor rises from dreary existence of the workers, which is in no way shown as a mocking commentary. The film-maker displays how the routine lifestyle of the workers instill no hope and at the same time observes how the proletarians have no other way than to walk into this socioeconomic trap. The chunk of dry humor in “Match Factory Girl” arises in situation when Iris decides to sail away from her humanity to match-up with the in-humaneness nature.

                                         We could predict that the first stop for Iris with a rat poison would be to Aarne’s abode, but unpredictably her next victim is some random guy at the bar. He sits next to her and sizing her up. She smiles pouring in something into the guy’s drink. The guy smiles, may be because he think that the woman is spiking up the drink for his benefit. The last stop of Iris is at her parents’ house and once again in order to maintain the wry humorous tone, Kaurismaki doesn’t show them gulping the drink or wailing in death throes. In the end, Iris’ darkly humorous transformation isn’t about portraying nihilistic ideals; it is more or less an act of revenge on the emotionally numbing routine of her life. Of course, the parents, Aarne and an anonymous man have sacrificed their life, but what Kaurismaki wants us to concentrate on, through the dry humor, is on a life that has no possibility of improvement or escape. Eventually, Iris has might have decided that a literal prison is far better option than a figurative prison. In the final frames of the movie as Iris is calmly walked away by the law officials from her work, we hear the aforementioned lines from the melancholic love song (“When you give everything only to find disappointment, the burden of memories gets too hard to bear”), above the humdrum of machine, and we could understand how this idealized romantic song have deeply influenced on Iris’ general idea about life – the one which she is perpetually denied. 

                                           “The Match Factory Girl” (68 minutes) is one of Aki Kaurismaki’s wickedly incisive works about the industrialized, contemporary society’s dispassion, cynicism and alienation. 

Book Reference: "Twenty-One Landmark European Films"

February 8, 2016

Uncle John [2015] – A Startlingly Good Low-Key Thriller

                                            First time film-maker Steven Piet’s low-key American indie thriller “Uncle John” (2015) opens with a murder. The murderer seems like an older gentleman, who after the act of murdering painstakingly builds up a bonfire, throws the corpse into the flames and later buries the ashes. The dead man is named Dutch, a religious zealot, who might have had something to confess to old man John (John Ashton) about John’s long-dead sister Dede. Although John is up to no good when we first see him, he seems like an affable small town guy as we see him chatting up with other senior-citizen pals in a diner. He is a carpenter and owns a decent-sized property amidst the farmlands of Illinois. So, the question remains is ‘why?’, but writers Piet and Erik Cary aren’t interested in accommodating their plot into a ‘thriller’ label. The writing is so nuanced here that it includes another parallel narrative, which organically meets up with ‘Uncle John’s’ afflictions at one point.

                                         The parallel story involves John’s nephew Ben (Alex Moffat), who is in Chicago (few hours away from John’s place) working as a designer of TV commercials for a small company. The first question viewers might have after witnessing Ben’s simple lifestyle is that ‘what’s it have to do with the creepy and painful run-ins of John?’ Yeah, the two stories seem totally unrelated, especially when a New York girl Kate (Jenna Lyng) joins the company at the managerial level. The first thing Ben does after looking at beautiful Kate is checking her Facebook account, which offers snippets of her life that is entirely pleasant. The nature of their working gradually brings them closer, but both don’t act on their feelings, keeping up the friendly working relationship. Back in the small town, Dutch’s baleful younger brother Danny (Ronnie Gene Blevins) is stalking John to learn the reason behind his brother’s disappearance. Of course, Ben & Kate meets John in a tensed situation, but everything here is so naturalistic and understated that our attention doesn’t often wavers to think about the word ‘predictability’.

                                       The plot or sequence descriptions of “Uncle John” couldn’t really convey the uneasy feelings plus the tangible emotions generated by the narrative. Even though nothing overly dramatic happens in John’s story-line, a tensed vibe is maintained throughout which reminds us of Coen brothers’ movies (for eg., “No Country for Old Men”). Of course, one can’t compare the mastery of Coen brothers to that of the visuals we see in “Uncle John”. But, still this indie seems like a fitting nod to their moody works. Steven Piet’s movie is never about the destination point. There is no point A or a point B, and so viewers expecting a edge-of-the-seat narrative with a simple explanation in the epilogue would be grossly disappointed. “Uncle John” is more about observing the lives of two polarizing figures who share a common past. Ben and Kate’s past are vaguely outlined, but their restrained emotions and lighter compliments make us root for them. The romantic track doesn’t have the usual sugar-coated feature. Yet, the presence of this romance could have served as risky to the narrative because the lack of dexterity in writing those scenes could have certainly ruined John’s story-line too. There are minor flaws in the love story, diffused with many filler shots, but the quality of direction and acting makes us to overlook those.

                                        Despite the superbly written naturalistic small talks between characters, the script wouldn’t have generated the enough impact, if not for director Piet subtle staging of each sequence. Be it the gossiping talk in the diner or the languid conversation between Ben & Kate, Piet’s frames pleasantly lingers on to catch the characters’ reactions or even their silences. Again, for those seeking a thriller, these are the moments that may infuse boredom, but for me this minimalism gave an immersive experience. From an aesthetic viewpoint, “Uncle John” might be compared with recent acclaimed indie flicks like “Blue Ruin” or “Shotgun Stories”. And, there’s certain similarities with those small town indie noirs, but the way Mr. Piet draws out the delicate aspects of the on-screen characters to make “Uncle John” very much its own movie.

                                       The central theme of the movie deals with an age-old, universal saying of ‘how people aren’t exactly what they seem’. The whole religious lecture at the start, recited by Dutch, impeccably sets up the events of the plot. I haven’t fully understood the deep religious context prevalent in the script, but the capacity of violence within John (who is seen by his neighbors as a guy who wouldn’t even hurt a fly) indicates the evil that lurks with in all of us mortal men. The lack of epiphany in John’s heart as he strangles the man with gas can appeared like a discourse. One of my favorite sequences in the film comes toward the ending, when Piet beautifully juxtaposes or inter-cuts love-making with an act of murder.  John Ashton as the uncle certainly adds a lot to the film’s moody tone. From “Beverly Hills”, “Midnight Run” to “Gone Baby Gone” often plays minor characters as notorious law officers. But, here as John, he imbues enough ambiguity to make us care for him as well as to wonder what infamous thing he is going to do next. Alex Moffat and Jenna Lyng casual flirtations are magnetic and engaging. It is not easy to capture in words, the subtle liveliness these two bring to their respective characters. Special mention must go to the excellent, minimalist eerie score by composers Adam Robl and Shawn Sutta.

                                     “Uncle John” (113 minutes) is a simple, realistic moody thriller which may entrance those looking for something different and nuanced. 


February 7, 2016

The World of Kanako [2014] – A Dizzying Mix of Exploitation and Police Procedural

                                       Japanese film-maker Tetsuya Nakashima’s films are laced with hyper-stylized aesthetics and intense editing to give us some kind of visceral punch, even when we can’t fully fathom the events unfolding on-screen. His previous films “Kamikaze Girls” (2004) and “Memories of Mastsuko” (2006) concocted drastic and crazy developments in the narrative, although our empathy for the central characters never wavered. With “Confession” (the director’s best film), Nakashima’s exuberance & vigor was channeled into a more refined, slow-burning narrative. However, in “The World of Kanako” (2014), the Japanese director once again takes the pedal-to-metal narrative approach and amplifies his pulpy sensibilities to give us an atypical revenge drama. Hysteric cuts, extreme violence and nihilistic attitude could be encountered at every turn and so once can’t tolerate the film, if they are averted by any one of those elements.

                                      The protagonist in “The World of Kanako” Akikazu (Koji Yakusho) reminds us of Harvey Keitel’s “Bad Lieutenant” character, who bludgeons and growls at anybody on his path. He is an ex-detective, whose mind is driven by alcohol and drugs. Akikazu’s wife (Asuka Kurosawa) has divorced him after beating her secret lover to pulp. The film starts with gruesome murders of three youngsters in a supermarket and the man who reported the murders was Akikazu. Considering the former detective’s putrefied mind, he is also considered as a suspect. Later, Akikazu’s ex-wife calls him in despair, telling about the disappearance of their teenage daughter Kanako (Nana Komatsu). Akikazu doesn’t even remember how his daughter’s face and have no good memories about her. We also know that his humanity has been totally compromised, but still the old detective instinct drives him like a rabid dog to go search for Kanako. Akikazu’s quest takes us through rancid criminal underworld, but what we really learn is what an empty-shelled, monstrous pair, the father and daughter could be.

                                        In an interview, director Nakashima states “the human feelings of hate and love are not always so far apart”. That statement is often reflected through Nakashima’s characters. The buried emotion of love makes his characters to act in different hateful ways. “Confessions” sharply explored how the rejection of love leads to unbridled hate and how love could drive us to do despicable things. In “Kanako”, the words ‘love’ and ‘kill’ are repeatedly juxtaposed to showcase the cycle of love and hate. Like fellow Japanese film-maker Sion Sono, Nakashima often offers an acidic take on moral decaying of modern Japan. The narrative delves into the emotionless nature of an older generation alongside the progressive sociopath tendencies of younger generation. In “Kamikaze Girls”, Momoko recites “Humans are born alone, live alone and die alone”, a statement from a 17 year old girl who never had a meaningful human interaction in her life. In “Memories of Matsuko”, the protagonist remembers how as a little girl she would make ‘funny face’, since that is the only thing that made her emotionally rigid father to smile. Matsuko makes the same ‘funny face’ as an adult to her scum of a boyfriend and gets beatings.

                                      In “Kanako” too, there are recurrent references to emotionless parents, placed at both ends of socioeconomic spectrum. Akikazu comes across a dirty, drug addict mother, who don’t know her son’s whereabouts and he also encounters a wealthy hit-man, who doesn’t care a bit about the wailing of his little boy. This casual parental negligence itself is exhibited as some sort of drug, plaguing the contemporary Japanese society. Narrative wise, “Kanako” seems like re-shuffling of the events written in “Confessions”. Revenge, bullying, dangerously manipulative teenager, innocent angst-ridden boy and over caring mother are few of the strands that may thematically connect both these films. But, unlike “Confession”, “Kanako” is less restrained in terms of story telling and hyper-stylized in terms of visuals. The aggressive editing and time jumps in Nakashima’s previous film helped to add a profound depth to the characters, whereas in this film the motley imagery makes the characters a bit ludicrous. The story of bullied boy (played by Hiroya Shimizu) takes up a large chunk of the plot to gradually reveal us the duality of Kanako, but the boy’s character is written in a way that never makes us empathize with his plight.

                                  Nevertheless, the biggest flaw that keeps away “Kanako” from reaching the greatness of “Confessions” is the wantonly nihilistic attitude. The portrayal of criminal underworld verges on exploitation and the unrelenting violence in those sequences numbs our sense to a point, where the inherent social commentary is obliterated. We could certainly understand the Nakashima’s visual nods to Seijun Suzuki’s “Branded to Kill” & “Tokyo Drifter”, but the cheerful sense of moral abandon, prevalent in the scene, shies away from adding any depth to the proceedings. The existential musings and post-modernist approach of Nakashima would have been benefited more by a Lynchian approach. The absence of law officials could be understood as the director’s way of intensifying the moral decay nature of the society, but the snickering, lolly-pop chewing detective embodies the cartoonish characteristics which makes the societal remarks little blunt or pointless. Still, if the movies don’t go totally off rails, it is due to wild performance of Yakusho. He plays the ultimate bastard character who exhibits a vulnerability and sadness, even when his misogyny and disaffection goes into unnerving territory. Komatsu as the sociopath teen offers a grounded performance, although everything around her is so over-the-top.

                                “The World of Kanako” (118 minutes) relentlessly assaults viewer’s psyche to offer a meaningful as well as dizzying movie experience. It is the kind of distressing film that declares oblivion as human’s only fate.