DFF '15: The World of Kanako (Tetsuya Nakashima, 2014)

by Jason Suzuki

Nakashima has created, with his latest The World of Kanako, a perfect feature to follow up his previous film Confessions (2010). Just as in that film, he crafts a world that is beautiful in its absence of hope. Coming off the creative differences that led him to quit his gig of directing the live action Attack on Titan film (the finished film looks like it could have used a talent like Nakashima's), this nasty ensemble piece allows Nakashima to indulge in as much visual flourish as he wants, much aligned with how his characters indulge in their most basic, and darkest impulses. An example of Nakashima's impulses: the opening credits tell you to fuck off.

The main narrative skein is that of washed up police officer Akikazu (played with a nasty full commitment by Koji Yakusho) who is searching for his missing daughter Kanako (Nana Komatsu in a debut role). During his search he uncovers that his daughter might be just as horrible a human being as he is, and we soon realize alongside Akikazu that he's not looking to save her but to kill her with his own bare hands. The film does not completely follow his drunken, bloody search, other characters get to relay their interactions with the titular character most notably a bullied classmate who harbors a love for Kanako, a character whose melancholy makes him a kindred classmate to the kids in Confessions. All the characters compiled together creates a mosaic of depravity in which the centerpiece is Kanako and Akikazu beats (and gets beaten) his way through it.

Time is elegantly mangled, scenes are filled with split second flash backs and flash forwards. Nakashima utilizes many anti or "negative graphic matches." Imagery is constantly being juxtaposed either through complete non-sequiturs or through shots that mirror the previous one but through a filter of filth. The film cuts back and forth between the face of a man enjoying a blowjob to the same man coughing up blood. The cuts make it seem like the two instances in this man's life are looking at one another. Nakashima links pleasure with pain but there's much more pain to go around. A point of reference would be to Kim Jee-woon's I Saw the Devil, which despite being a tired yet well-crafted exercise in the Korean revenge-thriller, the film was excitingly pessimistic in how the guilty are punished, but the innocent are punished much more severely. A similar rule of thumb works in The World of Kanako, but you'd be hard pressed to require a second hand when counting the number of good-natured people in the film. Which is all part of the fun.

We're all hoping that Edgar Wright's jumping off of the Marvel ship will allow him to make more highly original works, this was certainly the case with The World of Kanako. Nakashima has been able to in the past achieve great pathos through extreme stylization and visual flourish, something that Memories of Matsuko did so well. That is not the goal with this film. Despite the unrelenting brutality and pessimism there is an emotionally moving feeling of sorrow that permeates the film but is never quite allowed to last for too long as our characters continuously lie, rape, kill, and beat the shit out of one another. It's an exploration of the immoral disguised as a search-for-missing-person thriller. While there may not be a character to root for, the visuals will pull you in immediately, treating the audience in a similar way aesthetically to how characters are treated physically and emotionally. Confessions was largely about the disconnect felt by everyone and how it manifests itself as violence. There's a sense of tragedy that things turned out the way they did in that film. The World of Kanako is about what if that tragedy was the norm, and what if people relished in it. In this hypothetical double-bill, Confessions is at 10pm while The World of Kanako is for the brave souls still there at midnight.

The World of Kanako plays Friday, November 6, 6:45 pm; Saturday, November 7, 8:30pm; Tuesday, November 10, 9:00 pm; UA Pavilions. 

Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.