Zero Focus

Director: Yoshitaro Nomura

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Sharp, brooding b/w widescream cinematography heightens the film noir beauty of this almost Agatha Christie-like tale of murder, shaped to Japanese themes & attitudes, from a crime novel by Seicho Matsumoto. This film makes evident a connection between Japanese cinema of directors like Yoshitaro Nomura, French directors like Jean-Pierre Melville, & English language directors like Alfred Hitchock or John Huston.

Zero FocusTwo women, prostitutes during the Occupation, have had different fates in post-Occupation Japan. Hisako/Sally (Ineko Arima) lives obscurely in the countryside near the gloomy sea of Noto, with her lover Kenichi (Koji Nambara) who spends only ten days of each month with her, the rest of his time tending to business in Tokyo. He's an ex-cop cum salary man who once worked vice, & had sympathy for Sally, but could not overcome a reluctance to marry an ex-prostitute.

Sally does not know Kenichi has recently gotten married in Tokyo & is living two lives under two names, & plans to cut off their relationship to become a decent husband & provider to Teiko (Yoshiko Kuga).

The other ex-prostitute Sachiko/Emmy (Hizuru Takachiho) has managed to escape her past & married an older, wealthy businessman, but lives in terror of her past being found out. When Kenichi strikes up a friendship with her husband, she becomes convinced he has recognized her from his vice-cop days, & she waits horrified for the expected moment when he will blackmail her.

A third woman, Teiko, the newlywed in Tokyo, is married for only one week when her husband mysteriously vanishes during a business trip in the snowy north. She sets out to solve the mystery of his disappearance, uncovering her husband's secret life, & his seeming suicide because he could not resolve issues of his double-life.

The widow realizes she never knew her husband well enough to understand why he'd kill himself, or if he was even capable of it. But his brother, who did know him well, suspects that it was either a dramatic trick to get rid of one of his two lives, or an outright murder. The brother helps his sister-in-law & himself ends up dead for his suspicions.

In the end the widow is on her own solving what is eventually revealed as a triple murder. The angst & raw emotional complexities of the crimes are painful to observe, the mystery itself an effective one.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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