Genre: Early Showa-Era Crime Mystery
review in one breath
When a powerful patriarch demands that the heir to his inheritance be decided in a competition amongst his three grandsons, a nervous lawyer promptly calls on the help of renowned and eccentric detective Kindaichi Kosuke. But no sooner does Kindaichi arrive than the strange series of murders commences. This is renowned director Kon Ichikawa's 2006 remake of his own earlier 1976 film, retelling the classic crime mystery originally penned by author Yokomizo Seishi.
This tale is based on the Kindaichi Kosuke character created in 1946 by the Japanese novelist Seishi Yokomizo. Yokomizu lived during Japan's Showa Era (1926-1989) a period which provided the historical setting for many of his novels. The current film is set in the 22nd year of Showa, which by Western reckoning would be 1948.
In 1946 Yokomizo wrote a crime/mystery novel entitled The Honjin Murders (Honjin satsujin jiken) which introduced the character of Kindaichi to Japanese readers. This unkempt, amiable and highly insightful detective thrown into the midst of an intricate and often unguessable mystery became an almost immediate hit. In addition to his other written works, author Yokomizu would go on to pen a total of 77 mysteries involving the Kindaichi character between the years of 1946 and 1980.
At least 45 films have been based on Yokomizo's novels, a great number of which are dedicated to the mystery solving prowess of Kindaichi. In 1976, the well respected director Kon Ichikawa adapted to film Yokomizo's 1950-1951 novel entitled "The Inugami Clan" (Inugami no Ichizoku). The film cast Koji Ishizaka in the role of Kindaichi and, bolstered no doubt by the popularity of both the novel and the director, became a favorite among Japanese audiences. Yokomizo himself, at age 74 made an appearance in the film. He passed away five year later in December, 1981.
In 2006, at the age of 90, director Ichikawa remade his 1976 film and again cast Koji Ishizaka in the role of Kindaichi. I can only guess at the reasons for this decision to remake his own film. On the one hand a desire to preserve his legacy may have been at play. Following his 1976 film, he and actor Ishizaka went on to make four more Kindaichi films in the years 1977 to 1979. It's thus clear that Ichikawa stands in the adult generation's eye as the Kindaichi director. So when the question of a remake came up, he signed on.
But that somehow strikes me as being only a portion of the story. At age 90 Ichikawa clearly understood that this would be one of his final films, as in fact it turned out to be. Ichikawa died in February, 2008, making this the last entry in his film* directorial resume. (* This acknowledges his contribution to a collaborative TV production in 2007 entitled Yumei Jyuua in which he directed one of ten episodes.)
On a side note, there developed an unauthorized offshoot of Yokomizu's Kindaichi franchise revolving around Kindaichi Hajime, a grandson of Kindaichi mentioned briefly in one of the original novels. This younger Kindaichi, who shared the same crime-solving intuitions of his grandfather, appeared in a series of manga episodes entitled "Kindaichi Case Files" (Kindaichi Hajime Shonen no Jikembo) and later became a popular youth-centric anime series. A live-action film adaption was made in 1997 entitled Jikembo of Young Kindaichi : Legend of the Shanghai Mermaid.
On his deathbed, the patriarch of the powerful Inugami family informs his daughters that his massive inheritance will go to the grandson who marries Tamayo, the beautiful granddaughter of his long-time partner. This pits the sole son of each daughter against each other in a competition to win Tamayo's favor. Knowing full well the greed and under-handed strategies by which the prestigious family operates, and sensing the possibility of real trouble brewing, a young lawyer requests the help of Kindaichi Kosuke, a detective renowned for his unparalleled insight and crime-solving abilities.
Kindaichi complies, thinking this will be a simple matter of overseeing an inheritance, but within days of his arrival a series of gruesome and mysteriously executed murders begin. All evidence initially points to this family member, and then that family member, until the family members and the the local constable are pointing accusatory fingers at nearly everyone at some point.
But in his characteristically humorous and low-brow style, Kindaichi eventually filters through the complexities and labyrinthine distractions to deliver a conclusion which even audience members will be impressed with.
This film has a WHOLE LOTTA history wrapped up in its creation, whether in terms of its ground in the nationally beloved character Kindaichi by author Seishi Yokomizo, or its once again starring actor Ishizaka in a role he hasn't played in 27 years, or the fact this is revered director Kon Ichikawa's final film. For any one of these reasons this can easily be of interest to fans of Japanese film.
But alas, neither this nor the 1976 Ichikawa film are released in Reqion 1 (subtitled) format. Perhaps this remake will spawn some interest by distributors. If and when that opportunity comes, be sure to check out this final film by a classic Japanese director.
Version reviewed: Region 2 DVD (no subtitles)
|Almost too much background to mention: Based on a classic Showa-era novel involving the widely-loved character Kindaichi, directed by renowned director Kon Ichikawa in a remake of his own highly popular 1976 film.||This is undoubtedly aimed at adults. Plenty of (less-than-goopy) shock moments depicted.||Just a brief scene of topless cat fight.||Given this film's background, its twisting plot and some bizarrely cool scenes, I'll give it three green skulls.|