The Wings of the Kirin - Movie Poster

The Wings of the Kirin

3.0 Anne Murphy

Detective Kaga Kyoichiro investigates when a man's body is found under the statue of the Kirin on Nihonbashi bridge under strange circumstances.

This is a classic murder mystery that gets more mysterious as the story progresses. The script is taken from a series of Japanese detective novels, and for the most part it's a well structured story, but when translating from book to screen the retention of the many sub-plots appear to weigh the movie down with complexity. At the same time it is the nuances of the story that hold interest despite the measured pace and lack of action scenes. A kirin has wings but doesn't fly.


Chronicle of My Mother - Movie Poster

Chronicle of My Mother

3.0 Anne Murphy

A writer harbours a lifetime of bitter resentment towards his mother for abandoning him after the war.

Based on an autobiographical fiction novel "Chronicles of My Mother", this is a family saga that spans 15 years. The story is rendered in subdued tones, as fits the nature of the central character and his family. An affecting thread that spans the story is the decline of the matriarch into dementia; and the responses to her state are emotional but restrained, rather than emotive or expressive. Death and loss are prominent themes that weigh the pace as life slowly ticks on.


Villon's Wife - Movie Poster

Villon's Wife

3.0 Anne Murphy

This enticing period melodrama depicts a long-suffering woman's relationship with her brilliant but self-destructive writer husband in post-war Tokyo.

The drama is heavy going as everyone is laden with sorrow, desire and regret against a post-war back-drop that is sombre and opportunistic. The angst of the artist is captured in the husband's role and balanced by the strong-willed determination of the wife. Much can be read between the scenes, as the drama of dark themes and hard times plays out. "Vilon's Wife" is engrossing with all of the fragile and intertwined relationships of a soap opera; wretched affairs but no divorce.


A Lone Scalpel - Movie Poster

A Lone Scalpel

3.0 Anne Murphy

A pioneering surgeon, who cares more for his patients than for the rules, conducts a liver transplant when the town's Mayor falls ill.

Set in the 1980's, this hospital drama is heavy on the hospital parts and underplays the drama side, as the well-intentioned main characters are somewhat inscrutable. Perhaps reflecting the film's cultural setting, the overall tone is matter of fact and clinical around themes of life and death. It's redeemed by its quirkier moments amid the realistically graphic operating theatre surgery scenes. That's right, Kemosabe.


Solanin - Movie Poster

Solanin

3.5 Anne Murphy

Recent college graduates try to fulfil their dreams in a band and escape the monotony of regular jobs.

A coming of age movie, where adolescents try to find a life beyond the conventional one that might be expected of them. The soundtrack is loud with original music which conveys the passion of band members; and in contrast, the dull and muted tones of Tokyo reflect the plight of those same characters. Well acted and understated, it is hard not to be moved by the sentimentality and uncertainty of lives dedicated to pursuing one's dreams.


Zero Focus - Movie Poster

Zero Focus

2.5 Anne Murphy

Spurred by the disappearance of a newly-wed husband, three women in post-war Japan are drawn into a murder mystery.

"Zero Focus" is a mystery thriller set in post-war Japan. The plot is complicated and bodies pile up as the murders out-number the suspects. The movie is moody and melodramatic, evoking the classical work of directors from a past era. Despite the cultural setting there is familiarity to the style and unusual camera angles. The lengthy drama is eventually brought to a lengthy conclusion, but no thread is left unexplained as final scene follows final scene, leaving focus diminished.