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(Inugamike no ichizoku) (Japan)

  Publicity Stills of
"Murder of the Inugami Clan"
(Courtesy of Cathay-Keris Films

In Japanese with English & Chinese Subtitles
Director: Kon Ichikawa
Cast: Koji Ishizaka, Nanako Matsushima, Kikunosuke Onoe, Sumiko Fuji, Keiko Matsuzaka, Hisako Manda
RunTime: 2 hrs 16 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence and Nudity)

Opening Day: 14 August 2008


When the wealthy Inugami patriarch dies leaving a huge estate, their lawyer hires detective Kindaichi as a series of mysterious murders befalls the family--from attempted drownings, poisonings, to beheadings. A web of deceit, adultery and greed is revealed as the family gathers for the reading of the will, and the race for the inheritance turns even deadlier.

Movie Review:

There are films which you need to do some research and read up about before whipping out cash from your wallet to pay for that ticket for entry into the cinema. This 2006 Japanese film is definitely one of them. If you have no idea who Kon Ichikawa is, you’d probably treat this picture as one of the many detective crime thrillers that are out there in the market. There’s also this white masked man on the movie poster who looks like a principal character from a B-grade horror flick. He probably isn’t going to make you terribly excited the show either.

But being the culture vultures that we always attempt to be, we shall trace the beginnings of this important film in Japanese movie history. In 1976, the legendary filmmaker made a film about a detective solving murder cases which involve family feuds, a disfigured soldier who returns from war, a hatchet, a koto string and chrysanthemums. 30 years later, he remade the movie, keeping many of the principal actors and added some new faces. He was 91 when he made this new version of the movie and two years on, he passed away from pneumonia.

The movie became his last work.

And because the 1976 version is regarded by many film buffs as a cult film (it was a box office success and created a sensational wave of popularity for detective genre films in Japan), this 2006 version naturally became of interest to the film buffs too.

To the younger generation of movie goers, the picture may seem out of place amongst all the fancy blockbusters boasting of explosions, car chases, computer generated effects, good looking actors and all things extravagant. The 136 minute movie moves at a unhurried and steady pace, with every bit of the well written script playing out slowly but surely on screen. You get to know every single character, and the well developed plot engages you throughout.

True, the impatient viewer may scorn the straight editing cuts, the classic camera shots and the straightforward cinematography. But that was probably how they did it in the past, and this “old school” approach has served the movie well enough to make it a cult film.

Koji Ishizaka plays the famed investigator Kosuke Kindaichi (young girls who love all things Japanese will know that this character is played by Japanese boy band member Tsuyoshi Domoto in the popular TV series) with gravitas and charisma. Nanako Matsushima (everyone loves her porcelain features) plays a girl who has to choose between three men, thus deciding the fate of the wealthy family’s heirloom. Other acclaimed actors like Kikunosuke Onoe, Sumiko Fuji and Keiko Matsuzaka roud up the respected cast.

To today’s viewers, this movie may not be a cinematic feat, but the themes of family betrayal, human greed, relationship jealousy and all things dark are present in this homage to the original 1976 version. And what a fitting piece of work to commemorate the film’s 30th anniversary. If you step out of the theatre appreciating Ichikawa’s final movie, be thankful that you read up about the movie before stepping into the theatre.

Movie Rating:

(A fine piece of work which proves that a well written script is essential in movie making)

Review by John Li


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