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November 08, 2019

Denver Film Festival - A Girl Missing


Koji Fukada - 2019
Film Movement

Some things never change. One of Akira Kurosawa's lesser known films, Scandal, is about two celebrities, an artist and a singer, who meet at a resort. A photograph of them having breakfast together is published in a tabloid with the headline that the two are engaged in a love affair. That the story is false and has repercussions on the lives of the artist and the singer is of no concern to the paparazzi. For Kurosawa, his film was about ""he rise of the press in Japan and its habitual confusion of freedom with license. Personal privacy is never respected and the scandal sheets are the worst offenders."

A Girl Missing is primarily about the fallout after a high school student, Saki, is temporarily abducted. This is an apparently spontaneous act by a young man who happens to be the nephew of Ichiko, the nurse of Saki's grandmother. The relationship that Ichiko tries to hide, or at least downplay, does not stay secret for long as she is pursued by journalists who initially want more information on the nephew. Ichiko becomes the subject of tabloid fodder and sees her life spiraling out of control. Ichiko's past words and actions are shifted in such a way as to be used against her, making her appear as the real criminal.

The Japanese title translates as "Side Profile". There are two sides of Ichiko, the caring nurse seen caring for the grandmother, her own sense of self prior to the kidnapping, and then the version as presented by the tabloids that eventually causes the loss of her job, her fiancé and her home. There is also a third face as Ichiko renames herself Risa in a bid to break from her past life. The narrative is also fractured, by past and present, and by moments that are revealed to be Ichiko's dreams.

A Girl Missing primarily belongs to Mariko Tsutsui as Ichiko. For those who complain that there are few interesting roles for older actresses, Tsutsui, currently 59 years old, is able to play a woman who has moments with a total lack of inhibition. She is able to convey the frustration of someone who is herself a victim of various social codes, only able to depend on herself. There is the sense at the end of the film of tightly bound fierceness, that there is no way to correct the past, that you can only move forward.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 8, 2019 08:54 AM