Director: Yoshimitsu Morita
Cast: Masahiro Nakai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Yoshino Kimura
Yoshimitsu Morita is a veteran director in Japan, to most Hong Kong audience, he is best known for his controversial work Lost Paradise (1997). Moho Han is his latest film in 2002. With a rather exotic narrative device, it is quite a surprise to hear that this movie was well received in Japan.
The story of this movie is adapted from a famous novel. Since I haven't read the novel before, I am not sure how much Morita has added or subtracted, but from what I see now, the plot doesn't seem to be very intricate or hard to grasp. Actually, it is quite simple, Masahiro Nakai plays the role of an intelligent serial killer (which is a open secret as it is the selling point of the movie) who is good at fooling the cops and the media around, what confuses us is the episodic narrative device. It is not exactly the traditional kind of detective thriller in which the investigation of the detective is always the focus. In this movie, Morita rather plays around with the perspectives among the audience (the black bordered TV screen), the family of the victim and the killer. The audience is invited to analyze and investigate the case together with the characters in the movie.
One of the advantages of episodic narrative structure is that the movie can form a bond with the audience, forcing them to interpret the movie actively. Since you will get confused easily if you miss a scene or two, you have to really concentrate on the viewing. The disadvantage is that the movie sometimes gets repetitive, and this is the problem that can be applied to this movie. Basically, the second half of the movie is just trying to explain all the mysteries and uncleared moments in the first half, some scenes are shown more than once, perhaps from different angles only. If you are looking for a detective story that is full of twist and climax, I am sorry to tell you that this might not be the kind of movie you are looking for. However, having said that, I don't mean this film is not worth to watch. As a veteran director, Morita's execution of this script is quite effective. What is notable is the use of yellow tint throughout the film. Almost all the daytime scenes look like sunset, which is an authentic reflection of the mood of the characters (especially the family of the victim) - gloomy and depressed.
Masahiro Nakai is a pop idol in Japan, when he announced his participation in this project, the media was little surprised since they all thought this immoral role might cause some negative impact on his star image. But Nakai proved to them that they were wrong. He did not ruin his image at all, instead he demonstrated his professionalism brilliantly. His portrayal of this serial killer is full of confidence. Tsutomu Yamazaki as the grandfather of the victim is also excellent, an interesting side note is that Yamazaki used to play a serial killer in Akira Kurosawa's High and Low 30 years ago, now, the role of the serial killer is replaced by Nakai, and he has taken up the place of Toshiro Mifune's role in that movie.
Since the Japanese DVD version of Moho Han contains Japanese subtitles only, the HK version is the only one to go if you don't speak Japanese. Luckily, the picture quality and the subtitles are quite decent, but the disc does not have a chapter selection option, which I think is a big flaw, as this option has almost become a standard feature on almost every new DVD nowadays.
Cool guy(s) - Masahiro Nakai, Tsutomu Yamazaki
Reviewed by: Kantorates