Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Neighbor No. 13 (2006)

Is accomplished artistry enough to triumph over trite material? In the case of Yasuo Inoue's debut entry in the overgrown serial-killer genre, the answer is just barely. Inoue has a sharp eye for camera placement and color (the strange pre-credit sequence is a grand demonstration of this), and he's skilled enough to build a convincingly grubby atmosphere while also creating a sense of ambiguity about what might be happening. (The latter is important; otherwise, the ending, which seems to be about the schism point between passivity and active resistance, thus offering a glimpse into another life, wouldn't work at all.) Inoue demonstrates that he knows the value of contrast - in a sea of grey-green visuals, Yumi Yoshimura's pink dress can't help but stand out - and also how to best exploit his armada of editing tricks; I especially liked the way the film's shifts between Juzo and No. 13 were done as an off-hand thing. As a purely visual director, Inoue convinces. His material, though, lets him down. The screenplay, based off a manga, is trying too hard to be ugly, and the flashback scenes feel as though they've been imported from some other, much shittier movie (Memento Mori, maybe?). Despite the pretty frills, it's just another movie about a guy with a deadly side, and as such it's the kind of film where Yoshimura (one half of J-pop group Puffy AmiYumi, by the way) can steal the film away from the lead just by standing in frame and being distractingly hot. Still, I'll keep an eye out for whatever Inoue does next.

Grade: B-


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