DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

ZERO FOCUS (ZERO NO SHOTEN) (director/writer: Yoshitaro Nomura; screenwriters: from the novel by Seicho Matsumoto/Shinobu Hashimoto/Yoji Yamada; cinematographer: Takashi Kawamata; editor: Yoshiyasu Hamamura ; music: Yasushi Akutagawa; cast: Yoshiko Kuga (Teiko Uhara), Hizuro Takachiho (Sachiko Murota/Emmy), Ineko Arima (Hisako Tanuma), Koji Nanbara (Kenichi Uhara), Ko Nishimura (Sotaro Uhara), Sadako Sawamura ( Sotaro's wife), Yoshi Kato (Mr. Murota), Takanobu Hozumi (Mr. Honda), Tatsuo Nagai (Lt. Kitamura); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ichinozuke Hosumi/Shigero Wakatsuki; Janus (Home Vison Entertainment ); 1961-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

"Arty and involving."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A crime drama that Japanese director Yoshitaro Nomura ("The Demon"/"The Chase"/"Suspicion"), the son of the great silent film director Hotei,  bases on the novel by Seicho Matsumoto. It's mindful of a 1940s American film noir, and is filled with many twists and sets an eerie atmosphere of dark landscapes, rugged mountain territory and the ominous Noto Cliffs (a favorite spot for suicides).

It begins with a brief business trip train journey from Tokyo to the remote Kanazawa area, in the western provinces, referred to as the Japanese Alps, for Kenichi Uhara (Koji Nanbara), an ad executive and husband for a week of the thirty-something Teiko (Yoshiko Kuga). The slightly older husband is to finish up some business in his former branch office. Kenichi previously worked for the wealthy factory owner Murota (Yoshi Kato) in that city. Teiko sees her husband off and he vanishes, with no word after five days. Alarmed by his disappearance, Teiko journeys by train with a company executive (Takanobu Hozumi) to see what happened and soon realizes there were things about her husband's past she was unaware of.  After returning home with no answers, she returns when there's the unexpected death of her hubby's brother (Ko Nishimura) also investigating in Kanazawa, as she tries to understand what to make of her hubby's secretive sexual life she uncovered.

The b/w mystery film is arty and involving, but overlong and, perhaps, too challenging for foreigners with all the plot twists and the misinterpreted clues and issues with local customs. It asks a lot of the foreign viewer to see the shame the Japanese had and still have of facing the time after the war when many Japanese women became streetwalkers.

It's a well-made film, that pays its respect to great filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa or Alfred Hitchcock and the way they made suspense tales.

REVIEWED ON 6/16/2015       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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