Tetsuya Nakashima’s ‘Confessions’

May 6, 2011

By Larry McCloskey

Confessions - movie - filmConfessions (告白 Kokuhaku) is another example to the world that the Far East has taken revenge cinema to a whole new level over the past decade. Following in the elaborate vengeful footsteps of Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, Confessions sees a teacher exact her punishment on the two pupils responsible for the death of her daughter. A syringe filled with AIDS infected blood is the unusual weapon of choice used to taint the milk of the guilty. With everyone having received their daily dose of calcium she calmly breaks the news to the unknowing class. However, the sweeping of four awards at the 34th Japanese Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director) as well as making the nine film shortlist for the ever competitive Best Foreign Film category at this year’s Oscars suggests there is more than purely dodgy dairy products and classroom disharmony on display.

Writer and director Tetsuya Nakashima has had little success with previous films Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko in his attempts to breach the Western market. Both only managed a handful of screenings in festivals and independent cinemas across Europe and North America before promptly making their way via DVD release to the dimly lit World Cinema aisle. Confessions though, having been released on DVD at the end of April, has received a limited release in cinemas nationwide thanks to leading distributors of East Asian cinema, Third Window Films.

The reason for the wider release than his previous films seems to lie in the greater appeal to a Western audience which is most clearly evident in the film’s soundtrack. Nakashima, who also takes on the role of Music Supervisor, rejects a purely instrumental score and instead opts for a mixture of tracks specifically composed for the film and others that were not. The result is an intoxicating cocktail of one part bizarre odes about milk, a few hefty measures of heavy ambient rock, a tinge of Radiohead’s recent back catalogue with ‘Last Flowers’ then finished with a decorative umbrella composed of KC and the Sunshine Band’s ‘That’s the Way (I Like It)’. Whilst the mix may seem overly eclectic and at times downright peculiar on paper, it works perfectly when blended with Nakashima’s creative vision. The final sequence in particular highlights the brilliance of Nakashima’s choice and execution in using previously released material to complement his story. ‘Farewell’, a track released in 2005 by Japanese experimental rock band Boris, with its ominous wave of distorted guitars crashing into Nakashima’s imagery on screen leaves a brutally cathartic aftertaste as the credits begin to roll.

Confessions was released on DVD on April 25th. Visit www.thirdwindowfilms.com for news and details of cinema screenings nationwide.

Larry McCloskey is a writer for The Big Screen as well as a contributing author to A&E Playground.

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