Review: ‘Those Were the Days’

Mundane policing allows disparate cops to bond in beguiling Japanese meller disguised as a crimer "Those Were the Days." Pic will likely find more fans on the fest circuit, where tolerance of hybrids is higher than in theaters. Japanese commercial release is skedded for next year.

Mundane policing allows disparate cops to bond in beguiling Japanese meller disguised as a crimer “Those Were the Days.” Journeyman helmer Kazuki Omori has directed everything from docus to Godzilla movies, and, while this auteurist effort delivers subtle satisfactions, payoffs are unlikely to impress auds looking for CSI-style thrills. Pic will likely find more fans on the fest circuit, where tolerance of hybrids is higher than in theaters. Japanese commercial release is skedded for next year.

Pre-credit sequence intros seasoned detective Keisuke Okishima (Ittoku Kishibe) and his distaff twentysomething partner Kaoru Kono (Saki Takaoka) on a stake-out. When they corner a murder suspect, Kono appears to have an anti-male axe to grind and pulls her gun too quickly, only to be calmly reeled in by Okishima.

Post opening credits, the body of a 59-year-old male is found on the banks of a river. The stepson, Kazuo (Takahito Hosoyamada), fesses up to his involvement, but also puts the two cops on the trail of his estranged sister Nami (Mirai Yamamoto), who he says fired the fatal shots. Okishima and Kono travel to the resort district of Beppu and stake out the house of Nami’s ex-lover, Shinji Sekikawa (Michitaka Tsutsui), who also may be implicated in the murder.

Certain that Nami will make contact, they wait. While it is clear that the older man and the younger woman have been partners for quite some time, the waiting game allows them a previously unachieved intimacy.

Auds anxious to get on with murder story may be annoyed by the yarn’s snail pace, but the pic does have charm. The set-up allows for a couple of possible endings, and a talky confrontation between the main suspect and his pursuers initially disguises the plot’s sting. Some motivations have a decidedly Nipponese taste which will seal film’s fate as a fest rather than commercial item.

Takaoka convincingly portrays the uptight young cop. While, although in essence he plays second fiddle, the ever versatile Kishibe is the film’s backbone and gives a strong, if unrevelatory, turn.

Helming is unremarkable, but functional. Lensing is likewise unspectacular despite the appealing seaside setting. Other tech credits are good.

Those Were the Days

Japan

Production

A Twins Japan production. (International sales: Twins Japan, Tokyo.) Produced by Satoshi Kanno, Haruhiko Yoshida. Directed, written by Kazuki Omori.

Crew

Camera (color), Junichirou Hayashi; editor, Junichi Kikuchi; music, Atsushi Yamaji; production designer, Tomoyuki Maruo; sound, (Dolby) Makio Ika. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (Japanese Eyes), Oct. 23, 2006. Running time: 112 MIN.

With

Kaoru Kono - Saki Takaoka Nami Matsushita - Mirai Yamamoto Atsuko Sekikawa - Michiko Kawai Shinji Sekikawa - Michitaka Tsutsui Keisuke Okishima - Ittoku Kishibe Kazuo - Takahito Hosoyamada
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