Senior executive producers, Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, Nobuyoshi Otani.
Directed by Yoshimitsu Morita. Screenplay, Sumio Omori, based on the novel by Yusuke Kishi. Camera (color), Nobuyasu Kita; editor, Shinji Tanaka; music, Tetsuo Yamazaki; art director, Hidemitsu Yamazaki. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (market), Feb. 16, 2000. Original title: Kuroi ie. Running time: 117 MIN.
With: Shinobu Otake, Masaki Uchino, Masahiko Nishimura, Misato Tanaka.
Following the engrossing legalistic drama “Keiho,” which played in competition at Berlin in 1999, the career of Japanese director Yoshimitsu Morita continues to yo-yo with “The Black House,” a slowly escalating horror-comedy that, for starters, needs at least half an hour taken out of it. Despite several fine movies, Morita has had trouble re-establishing an international profile since his 1983 hit “Family Game,” and this one, based on a 1997 bestseller, won’t do it.
Set in Kanazawa, a small, unremarkable city on the west coast of Japan, pic builds a weird, “Twin Peaks”–like ambience as it centers on a young, pressured insurance investigator, Wakatsuki (Masaki Uchino). First hour builds too slowly, with only flashes of Morita’s sardonic humor, establishing a gallery of oddball types as Wakatsuki investigates a suspicious claim. Dramatis personae are a thumbless father (Masahiko Nishimura), who may be a psychopathic killer, and his wife (Shinobu Otake), who may be even madder; their young son supposedly just hanged himself. Last act, which tips over into hysterical, blood-spattered comedy, sits uncomfortably with the long, discursive lead-up. Tech credits are pro.