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The World of Kanako - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2014

Thriller, Drama

Tetsuya Nakashima

Koji Yakusho
Nana Komatsu
Satoshi Tsumabuki
Hiroya Shimizu
Ai Hashimoto
Mahiro Takasugi
Asuka Kurosawa
Joe Odagiri
Miki Nakatani
Aoi Morikawa
Fumi Nikaido
Munetaka Aoki
Jun Kunimura
Megumi Hatachiya
Shono Hayama

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The World of Kanako

Story: Showa Fujishima (Koji Yakusho) was a police detective until his alcoholism and his emotional outbursts cost him his job. He has also lost his family because of it. However, one day his ex-wife calls him and tells him that their daughter Kanako (Nana Komatsu) has disappeared. Fujishima follows some clues. It seems that his daughter wasn't as angelic has he presumed. Among her friends are even some who deal with drugs. Moreover, Fujishima finds some drugs in her handbag as well. Only a picture of Kanako and another boy seems to be a useful clue. But the boy has already commited suicide a few years ago. The former detective assumes that Kanako's grief about her boyfriend taking his life made her come across the wrong people. But suddenly Fujishima is kidnapped by some gangsters who are looking for Kanako, too. Nothing seems to make any sense for Fujishima anymore since everything points at his daughter having made dangerous enemies. Furthermore, there is detective Asai (Satoshi Tsumabuki) watching his every step as he thinks Fujishima didn't tell him the truth about a former case.

Review: You really couldn't have expected this. What director Tetsuya Nakashima delivers here is so dark, nihilistic and deprived of any hope that it is simply exhausting to watch "The World of Kanako" until the end. Although he already struck a very dark note in his "Confessions" this is surely one of the blackest thrillers that came out of Japan in recent years. Yet, Nakashima doesn't refrain from making use of his music clip-like editing, sometimes strong implementation of lots of colors and a distinctive use of music, yet the film's madness overshadows outright everything. The director doesn't just succeed in doing so thanks to his exceptional skills behind the camera, but also because of a lead actor who like the movie itself wanders on a thin line between madness and even greater madness.

The World of Kanako - Film Screenshot 11

It's difficult to grasp anything that's happening at first. We are served with fragments of information which we can't put into the right order yet since there are different time lines mixed together. Therefore, "The World of Kanako" is very arduous work in the beginning. Even later on Tetsuya even seems to enjoy playing with different time lines. Thus, he lets two different time lines unfold parallely at one point, shifting from one to the other through fast cuts, and the viewer isn't just asked to use his cognitive skills to unravel this scene, but also gets the impression that the director wants to push him/her into the same abyss of madness that Fujishima is sucked in. The movie is also exhausting because of its at times very fast editing through which Tetsuya once again puts contrasts against each other and shows off his particular style.

The World of Kanako - Film Screenshot 12

Still, this thriller, based on a novel by Akio Fukamachi, is also exhausting because it doesn't center around an individual that could be called "good" in any sort of way. No matter what sort of hope you want to hold onto as a viewer it is stepped on continuously. In addition, to call Fujishima an antihero is almost to nice of a thing to say. While he uncovers more and more of his daughter's mysterious past, there is also more and more of his dark side revealed which slowly makes you believe that his daughter couldn't be the likable girl he assumes her to be after all. But it is also difficult to interpret certain pieces of information because they are introduced in the shape of dreams and the transition is seamless to such a degree that it doesn't come as a surprise when Kanako sees herself as the protagonist of "Alice in Wonderland" to which there is continuous reference.

The things Fujishima finds out and sees would have turned everyone else's stomach and seriously harmed his mental health. But not with this antihero. Fujishima is already mentally ill and his desire to find his daughter isn't exactly motivated by his fatherly love. Or maybe it is in a weird way. If you are looking for clear motives in "The World of Kanako" you will most likely find none or rather need to look for them between the lines. In the end, it is about loneliness, inner emptiness and how the psyche of a monster could look like. Koji Yakusho ("13 Assassins") delivers an impressive performance. In the hands of most other actors the role easily could have led to overacting and unintentionally funny moments, but Koji brings an intensity into the film that is distressing and brutal.

The World of Kanako - Film Screenshot 13

The thriller isn't just brutal when it comes to illuminating its themes, but also in the depiction of violence. It's not just the many songs from the 60s and 70s (and older ones) that remind you of exploitation movies of that time. However, the movie is mainly carried by Tetsuya Nakashima's extremely spotless and almost too perfectly composed directing. Some of the supporting characters intensify the already very intense and numbingly dark atmosphere with their different depiction of "evil", thus Satoshi Tsumabuki ("Villain") and Joe Odagiri ("My Way") are also making an impression. It's difficult to rate a movie like "The World of Kanako" fairly. This is without a doubt a small masterpiece, but a very unpleasant one. It's almost the counterpart to Tetsuya's "Memories of Matsuko". Whereas the world was evil there, too, the female protagonist filled the world with color and hope through her purity. This character is nowhere to be found here and so you have to wander through the different levels of hell without any hope of catharsis at the end of the road...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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