Chief For The Day
It may be a bewildering start to the film, but writer-director Keralino Sandorovich has plenty up his sleeve in weaving together an absurdist comedy that may not seem much at first, but once you've decided to surrender some patience in the build up, will find plenty of reasons to smile about what's essentially a snapshot of seemingly unrelated events that converge in the most casual of manners, mirroring how some things in life seem to take on new meaning when looking back at hindsight.
The synopsis may seem to dwell on the story of Riko Narumi's newly minted gravure idol known as Ayame Enjoji, whose debut photo spread in a magazine turned out to be upside down. Visibly upset. her moment of fury ended up with the accidental stealing of a magazine from a convenience store, and ending up in a police station. As one of the police's PR schemes, she sees herself becoming the police chief over a twenty four hour period, which is supposedly a puppet role, if only for the cops to take her seriously!
But this, like the segment of the play the film was inspired by, served to only be a small part of the entire web like narrative, which is played for the most parts in non-linear fashion, introducing a myriad of characters, and their respective back stories. There's Ayame and her schoolmate Momo (Sakura Ando) who's also now a more famous gravure star, despite being the nerdier of the two, a trio of robbers who hit on a convenience store that served as an outlet through which a number of characters shop from, a murder taking place in an apartment adjacent to the robbers lair, a salaryman who opens the film and finds himself witness to the identity of the murderer, Ayame's ex-boyfriend who has a secret to hide and is an officer in the police force, and the list goes on.
Fish Story was perhaps the last Japanese film I had experienced that had seemingly unrelated plotlines coming together with fervour to paint sprawling, inter-connected stories revolving around the world created by the director, with plenty of plot elements, sub plot arcs and characters to whom you had to pay attention to in order to see how intricately everything got weaved together, and credit goes to Sandorovich to come up with this creative nightmare that converges and resolves everything in its finale. And to add to that is that touch of black comedy that made it come off at times like a dark tale of morality. If a rich narrative is your cup of tea, then Crime and Punishment?!? certainly had enough on its plate to keep you busy in trying to piece things together in chronological fashion.
Riko Narumi, the teenager who was in Jun Ichikawa's How to Become Myself, plays Ayame to perfection, charting the tale of a character bogged by low self-esteem, who had to eventually step up into what's expected of her, and to finally know how to make lemonades when life dishes out lemons to her every step of the way. She aced moments that called for vulnerability and emotional instability, and looked confident when finally finding some inner strength and belief. Scenes opposite Kento Nagayama as her ex and Inuko Inuyama as her suffering manager were also some of the best in the film, given the chemistry between the cast.
Crime and Punishment?!? may be built on plenty of conveniences amongst characters, relationships and situations, but sometimes things happen for a reason or are designed to occur in a certain fashion, with fact being stranger than fiction becoming like a given. Recommended!
The DVD by Third Window Films presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen transfer with audio in its original Japanese language. Scene selection is available over 20 chapters, with subtitles in English only and also made available in the Special Features, consisting of:
Making Of (44:32) which is the standard behind the scenes look at the making of the film, done in chronological order of what was shot on which day. Interviews are done with almost all the cast members, including minor ones, with plenty of rehearsal shots and various activities on set over the 27 days of filming.
Stage Show (6:39) sees director Keralino Sandorovich introducing actresses Riko Narumii and Inuko Inuyama to the original stage production on which Crime and Punishment?!? was loosely based upon a small portion of that stage play.
And a slate of Trailers from this film's (1:49), to other films released by Third Window such as Adrift in Tokyo (1:56), Underwater Love (1:13), Villain (1:26), Sawako Decides (1:51), cold Fish (1:58) and Confessions (1:42). A set of Weblinks is available for access if the disc is played on a computer.
The DVD is available for pre-order/order from Monday 14 May 2012 and you can do so here.