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November 04, 2015

Denver Film Festival: The World of Kanako


Tetsuya Nakashima - 2014
Drafthouse Films

Tetsuya Nakashima has stated in an interview that as he has gotten older, he has become a less optimistic person. Much darker than his earlier films, and unexpectedly brutal, The World of Kanako is still very much thematically similar to Nakashima's previous films. After the more somber Confessions, Nakashima returns to sequences using bright, day-glo colors, but in a different kind of context. Again, his interest is in characters, usually female, who live outside the mainstream.

The Japanese title translates as "thirst". The thirst may be for love, or some kind of validation. To say that the film is about a father's search for his missing daughter is barely scratching the surface. Akio Fukamachi's novel, Hateshinaki Kawaki was a best selling novel in Japan, but initial thought of as too lurid to be made into a film. In another interview, Nakashima mentions the influence of Kinji Fukasaku. As one who has seen and loved Japanese exploitation films from the late Fifties through early Seventies, the effect is as if the Nakashima took the most shocking elements primarily from Nikkatsu and Toei Studios, and added or made more explicit, what could not have been hinted at previously. Sex, drugs, juvenile delinquents, bad cops, worse cops, rape, incest, and murder are all here.

There is the more serious side to Nakashima, which is that what we see of another person may not be the true image of that person, that people have hidden sides and hidden motivations. Akikazu Fujishima is a former cop, reduced to working security. He is the first to discover that multiple murders took place at a convenience store. At the same time as he is grilled by the police regarding the murder scene, he gets a call from his ex-wife telling him that their daughter, Kanako, has gone missing. Akikazu is no upstanding father, rather he an alcoholic, full of rage, barging into the lives of those who provide some clues about Kanako. Alice in Wonderland is referred to several times. If Kanako, like Alice, falls deeper and deeper into a hole, Akikazu not only follows her, but brings several people down that hole with him.

Nakashima would appear to have taken a few visual queues not only from Japanese films from previous decades, but also other filmmakers. The influence of Quentin Tarantino can be felt in a couple of animated moments, as well as the use of cars as deadly weapons. When a cop's fingers are shot off, it recalls a similar moment in Taxi Driver. There is the detective of Akikazu's trail, cooly observing, chuckling to himself, always with a Tootsie Pop in his mouth, perhaps inspired by Telly Savalas as Kojak. Nakashima deliberately ends the film without a true sense of closure. The cinematic gauntlet has been tossed, to be picked up by the more adventurous audience.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 4, 2015 09:09 AM