Take a Drink: every time Akikazu yells at someone.
Take a Drink: whenever something bad happens to someone.
Do a Shot: for every time Akikazu gets a little bit bloodier.
Do a Shot: for each instance where you think the movie is about as fucked up as you think it’s going to get, and it goes just a little bit further.
By: Hawk Ripjaw (Two Beers) –
The World of Kanako opens with a delirious montage of Japanese citizens joyfully celebrating Christmas, but the gleeful festivities take a back seat to a vicious triple homicide and a close-up of a man snarling threats to some unseen person.
Any movie that starts off with such a juxtaposition isn’t fucking around.
Former detective Akikazu Fujishima (Koji Yakusho), separated from his family and willingly removed from the police force due to his schizophrenia and anger issues, receives a call from his estranged wife as to the whereabouts of their daughter Kanako (Nana Komatsu). Akikazu carves a swath of violence through the city in search of answers for his daughter, each new revelation giving him additional evidence that his daughter is not the cheerful angel that people seem to remember her as, but rather a cruel sociopath manipulating the lives of her schoolmates and ruining that of her would-be boyfriend. Akikazu, for his part, keeps on his same trajectory, but his reasons for finding Kanako are less to satisfy and from paternal instinct and more for something else.
Guess what? Life sucks. Also, fuck you for thinking that things are going to be okay. The World of Kanako indulges in this fatalist ideology at every opportunity. Like the best of Eastern films, this one likes to tease with samples of happiness such as an animated man swimming underwater, musing over our potential place beneath the waves, before surfacing and finding him back in the real world as school bullies torture him at the pool.
The World of Kanako is a crazy, bizarre, violent, crushingly bleak drama. Visually, everything about this movie is aggressive. Quick cuts, bright colors, and extreme, graphic close-ups are everywhere. Even something as simple as eating Ramen is punctuated with flashy banners exchanging blows with glancing sunlight in the background. This film is utterly beautiful in the way it is staged, shot, and edited. A common trick the movie employs is the quick cut between two separate settings as a conversation plays over them to connect the dots. Another is to juxtapose two events that happened at different times in one location, cutting between them and allowing the instances to bleed into each other. A late scene finds Akikazu encountering a hotel room previously occupied by Kanako, and a conversation she is having with another character days earlier crosses lines with Akikazu’s schizophrenic conversation with himself, so it’s almost as though all three characters are talking with each other. The editing in this movie is really something special.
While there are flourishes of ingenious editing, other areas of the film roar with visual aggression without the teeth to follow through. The first indication that something isn’t quite right is in the opening credits, a suspiciously Western, oddly Tarantino-esque opening title sequence that punctuates each actor’s name with either a cheesy gunshot sound effect or a graphic of a curse word. Other instances feel a bit excessive; a deeply unpleasant rape scene is scored with a swell of rapturous orchestral music that wouldn’t be out of place in a Disney scene where the prince sweeps the princess off her feet. While it’s an interesting artistic choice, it feels baseless at best and in poor taste at worst. That said, the latter could very well be the intention, as the rest of the movie gives very few shits about any sort of subtlety.
Devastatingly bleak, The World of Kanako succeeds where the best of Eastern revenge cinema does likewise: plunging headfirst into darkness and refusing to come up for air. Multiple murder scenes, buckets of blood, irredeemable characters, and a relentless focus on making every person’s life as miserable as possible are all the film has to offer, even to the point where the story almost takes a backseat to everything else. This is one of the most difficult films I’ve seen in years, and I can’t say I’d ever want to see it again, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a well-made picture. It’s beautifully shot and edited, extremely well-acted, and only gives enough of a story to give you a thread to follow as it parades its violence and depravity in your face. It’s a tough watch, but a worthwhile one.