Review: ‘The Motive’

The residents of a Tokyo apartment block act as confusing signposts in "The Motive," a labyrinthine whodunit which overwhelms with its accumulation of detail and 100-plus characters. Existential thriller could get some play offshore in Asian-friendly events.

The residents of a Tokyo apartment block act as confusing signposts in “The Motive,” a labyrinthine whodunit which overwhelms with its accumulation of detail and 100-plus characters. Maintaining the chapter structure of Miyuke Miyabe’s original novel helps coherency, but most auds will be wondering when the film will end as the episode numbers reach the late teens. Originally broadcast on Japanese tube in April, pic is set for a December cinema release in the slightly altered version screened at the Tokyo fest. Existential thriller could get some play offshore in Asian-friendly events.

Multitude of witnesses speak direct to camera, TV reportage style, with an off-handedness that’s sometimes like poorly edited footage from a Christopher Guest movie. Unwieldy story, based on their aggregate recollections, is kept comprehensible by veteran director Nobuhiko Obayashi, but a less-slavish adaptation of the novel would have been more desirable. Combo of 16mm, HiDef and DV lensing, transferred to 35mm, adds to the narrative’s otherworldly feel. Perfs by a Who’s Who of Japanese character thesps are solid, within the limits of the affected acting style required. Jazzy soundtrack often feels incongruous but is easy on the ear.

The Motive

Japan

Production

A WOWOW, Producer System Co. production (International sales: Asmik Ace Entertainment, Tokyo.) Produced by Yukihiro Toda, Kyoko Obayashi, Terumichi Yamasaki. Executive producers, Yasuo Kaneko, Kyoko Obayashi. Directed, written by Nobuhiko Obayashi, based on the novel by Miyuki Miyabe.

Crew

Camera (color, Super-16, HiDef, DV-to-35mm), Takehiro Kato; editors, Nobuhiko Obayashi, Junko Uchida; music, Kosuke Yamashita, Sotoro Manabu; production designer, Koichi Takeuchi. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (Japanese Eyes), Oct. 23, 2004. Running time: 159 MIN.

With

Ittoku Kishibe, Masami Hisamoto, Miyako Akaza, Jun Fubuki, Akira Emoto.

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