Flirtations with pornography, prostitution and violence spell out the dark underbelly of Japanese society, but narrative details are left unconfirmed in Ryuichi Hiroki's intriguing "M." Pic is skedded for local release in January and is likely to duplicate Hiroki's previous festival success abroad.

Flirtations with pornography, prostitution and violence spell out the dark underbelly of Japanese society, but narrative details are left unconfirmed in Ryuichi Hiroki’s intriguing “M.” Having successfully graduated from his apprenticeship in the Nipponese pink film (soft-core porno) industry to becoming a darling of the international fest circuit, Hiroki knows his subject. Multiple story lines may ultimately leave auds scratching their heads, but otherwise their brains will be stimulated. Pic is skedded for local release in January and is likely to duplicate Hiroki’s previous festival success abroad.

Newspaper delivery boy Minoru Masaki (Kengo Kora) is adverse to using the pornography and drugs his work colleagues and friends like. While at a baseball park, Minoru strikes up a friendship with tweener boy Masato.

The two boys, youngster and late adolescent, cheerfully play catch, while waiting for Masato’s mother, Satoko (Miwon ), who is late getting home from her part-time job.

When Satoko arrives, she and Minoru exchange an intense look. The youth spends the following days watching Satoko as she works in her secret job as a part-time prostie for a yakuza thug (Tomorowo Taguchi).

Narrative initially appears straightforward, but is actually decidedly non-linear. While Minoru’s flashbacks to his violent childhood are clearly delineated with a green tint, other strands, which appear to be occurring concurrently, are eventually revealed to have transpired at different times.

Additionally, aud is privy to sexual fantasies that Satako’s oblivious hubby Hideyuki (Nao Omori) has about his wife’s daytime adventures. However, while he is ignorant of his wife’s actual sexual activities, Hideyuki’s fantasies gradually resemble fragments of the main narrative, blurring the line between reality and illusion.

By yarn’s end, aud will be wondering whether any of Satoko’s actions occurred or if they are just fantasy projections of her workaholic husband and the repressed newspaper boy.

Result is not as baffling or as off-the-wall as “Mulholland Drive” but script appears to employ some similar narrative shifts.

Kora brings a burning intensity to his role, accurately capturing a sense of an angry youth whose next move is guaranteed to be unpredictable.

Miwon lacks sufficient presence in the role of the housewife turned prostie, eliciting sympathy but not identification. In contrast, Taguchi is frighteningly malevolent as the yakuza who takes full advantage of the women he is pimping.

Hiroki’s helming is efficient. He expertly manages the sliding time frames with the only confusion intentional. Tech credits are similarly expert.

Japanese title is identical to the single Roman alphabet letter provided for Westerners. Exact derivation of title is never defined but may refer to a romanized version of male protag’s name or a Langian reference to a murderer.

M

Japan

Production

A Happinet Corp. presentation of a Zak Corp. production. (International sales: Happinet Corp., Tokyo.) Produced by Makoto Ishihara, Akemi Suyama. Executive producer, Kyoichi Miyazaki. Directed by Ryuichi Hiroki. Screenplay, Hisashi Sato based on the novel by Seishu Hase.

Crew

Camera (color), Kazuhiro Suzuki; editor, Junichi Kikuchi; music, Yusuke Ooya; production designer, China Hayashi; sound, (Dolby) Akira Fukada. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (Japanese Eyes), Oct. 27, 2006. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Satoko Ogawa - Miwon Minoru Masaki - Kengo Kora Tawara - Tomorowo Taguchi Hideyuki Ogawa - Nao Omori Yakuza - Jiro Tawaro

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