in their right mind would call Mao Inoue homely and the young actress playing
her middle school aged self has to be one of the cutest kids ever. Yet, those
caught up in the mob mentality will believe anything. Group think in its many
guises, including social networking, scandal mongering journalism, and peer
pressure, stands thoroughly indicted in Yoshihiro Nakamura’s The Snow White Murder Case (trailer here) , which screens
as a co-presentation of the 2014 Japan Cuts and New York Asian Film Festival.
Miki was Little Ms. Perfect at her cosmetic company (makers of Snow White soap).
Outwardly beautiful and gracious, she was actually manipulative and mean. She
also happens to be dead, having been found stabbed repeatedly and then burned
to beyond recognition. The media will chose to print the legend, led by TV news
part-timer Yuji Akahosi, who sees his relationship with one of the murdered
woman’s co-workers as his opportunity to hit the big time. During their
interview, Risako Kano not so subtly casts suspicions on Miki Shirono, referred
to in his reports as “Miss S.”
subsequent interviews, their fellow co-workers are eager to follow Kano’s lead,
especially since Shirono has conveniently disappeared. Slowly, old high school
and college friends emerge to defend Shirono. As they tell their stories in
flashbacks, viewers see a pattern of bullying develop in her formative years.
Yet, Akahosi doubles down on his narrative, egging on the internet’s baying
a mystery, Snow White is really the
sort of film that rips your heart out and stomps on it. All three actresses
playing Shirono are just overwhelmingly endearing and vulnerable. Viewers with
any sliver of sympathy will be deeply moved by her/their sensitivity and
indomitable faith the future will somehow be better.
Snow White was adapted from
Kinae Minato’s novel, as was Tetsuya Nakashima’s incendiary Confessions—and it is easy to see a
kinship between the two, especially in the way students’ causal cruelty leads
to major macro consequences. However, Nakamura’s film does not leave audiences
feeling so bereft and numb.
addition to Inoue and her fellow Sironos, Shihori Kanjiya and her younger alter
ego are terrific as Miss S.’s loyal but emotionally stunted childhood friend,
Yuko Tanimura. Arguably, Go Ayano is appropriately vacuous and annoying as
Akahosi, in a hipster Williamsburg kind of way. Yet, it is TV actress Nanao in
her first feature role as Miki, who really gives the film a disconcerting edge.
Considering how intricately plotted Snow White is, the final resolution
comes surprisingly quickly and cleanly. Nevertheless, witnessing Shirono’s life
is an experience that really gets into your soul. Indeed, its genre trappings
are rather deceptive, dressing up an intensely personal drama that steadily
expands in scope. Highly recommended, The
Snow White Murder Case screens tomorrow (7/11) at the Japan Society, as a
joint selection of this year’s NYAFF and Japan Cuts: the New York Festival of
Contemporary Japanese Film.
Labels: Japan Cuts '14, Japanese Cinema, NYAFF '14, The media on film