Review: ‘Inju: The Beast in the Shadow’

Barbet Schroeder's thriller about a French author's obsessive rivalry with the Japanese novelist he imitates.

Barbet Schroeder’s thriller about a French author’s obsessive rivalry with the Japanese novelist he imitates, far from unrolling a cinematic hall of mirrors, merely stacks successive layers of make-believe, each flabbier and phonier than the last. Schroeder’s ace in the hole was always his ability to inject a startling dose of documentary realism into the most locked-in genre tropes. Here, however, artifice reigns supreme, and with a remarkable lack conviction or craftsmanship. “Inju: The Beast in the Shadow” seems headed for equally disaffected receptions both West and East.

Loosely based on a classic detective novel by the Japanese master of the perverse, Edogawa Rampo (a phonetization of Edgar Allan Poe), pic tracks smug pretentious young French writer, Alex Fayard (the always smarmy Benoit Magimel), bound for Kyoto. There, he tries to save a beautiful geisha (Lika Minamoto) from the clutches of his mentor/rival, the mysterious horror scribe Shundei Oe. Mock samurai films in which heads literally roll, haunted houses full of eviscerated cats, a gorgeous geisha fatale and last-act revelations fail to arouse the slightest frisson or visual shock, pic’s uninspired imagery matched only by its inexplicably amateurish thesping.

Inju: The Beast in the Shadow

France

Production

An SBS Films, La Fabrique des Films production, in association with France 2 Cinema, Sofica UGC 1, Sofica Soficinema 4, with the cooperation of Canal Plus, Cinecinema. (International sales: UGC Intl., Paris.) Produced by Said Ben Said, Verane Frediani, Franck Ribiere. Directed by Barbet Schroeder. Screenplay, Jean-Armand Bourgrelle, Frederique Henri, Schroeder.

Crew

Camera (color), Luciano Tovoli; editor, Luc Barnier; music, Jorge Arriagada. Original French title: Inju: la bete dans l'ombre. French, Japanese, English dialogue. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Aug. 28, 2008. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Special Presentations.) Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Benoit Magimel, Lika Minamoto, Gen Shimaoka, Ryo Ishibashi, Shun Sugata, Tomonobu Fukui.

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