100 Best Contemporary Japanese Movies – [2] Confessions (Kokuhaku- 告白) – Showcase of young talents Ai Hashimoto, Yukito Nishi, Mana Ashida!

Confessions (Kokuhaku) features some of Japan’s most promising young talents – Ai Hashimoto, Mana Ashida, Yukito Nishii, Kai Inowaki and one of the industry’s most popular leading ladies Takako Matsu. It is a tale of revenge, teen angst and the cruelty and prejudices of today’s youth.

What the Movie is all about: Tetsuya Nakashima wrote and directed this edgy drama about a woman who plots revenge against a handful of irresponsible youths. Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) is a teacher who spends her days looking after a class of frequently unruly seventh graders.

One day, Yuko calmly announces to her class that she’s leaving her job soon as she’s still struggling with the recent death of her young daughter. She adds that she knows who was responsible for the child’s drowning, they happen to be among the students in her class — and that the milk they’re drinking may just be infected with a deadly disease.

Through a series of flashbacks, we become witnesses to Yuko’s difficulties with her students, the actions of the nameless students she believes are guilty of murder — one of whom is planning vengeance against Yuko, while the other sinks deep into paranoia — and the incidents that suggest the likely innocence and guilt of the parties involved [ Narrative by Mark Deming ]

Why you should watch this movie: If you love dramatic thrillers with a twist, then this is the perfect movie for you. If you’re a fan of Takako Matsu, then you will love her here because she was utterly convincing! The fact that it also stars Ai Hashimoto is enough to pique interest since Hashimoto is one incredibly gifted young actress.

High school students can be such annoying, irritating creatures who exhibit their set of prejudice and preferences – they are put on spotlight here with dramatic effect. There are some disturbing scenes – not for the faint of heart, but the whole feature running 106 minutes is worth every single bit.

Featured Film Critique: Maggie Lee, The Hollywood Reporter’s resident critic praised the movie, saying:

The cruelty that teens are capable of and the amoral prurience of Japanese society portrayed in Tetsuya Nakashima’s “Confessions” will deliver a shock to the system of any audience. Even more electrifying is the punishment meted out by the teacher-protagonist to her students for a callous crime. Cynical, anarchic and impeccably crafted, this revenge thriller with a socially caustic twist on the image of the mater dolorosa offers no respite in tension, no redemption for any character and an ending that is as merciless as it is satisfying. The film — which is Japan’s entry in this year’s foreigh-language Oscar race — impressed buyers at this year’s Festival de Cannes and sold to major territories. On Japanese home ground, it kept the box-office top spot for four straight weeks, raking in more than $30 million. “Confessions” also won the Jury Choice Award at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival and is being wooed by at least 20 other fests. The original story from Kanae Minato’s six-part serial novel — Japan’s No. 1 best-seller this year — is itself so lapel-grabbing that it is ripe for remake. [ read more ]

What Culture’s Shaun Munro has this to say about the first half of the film:

The opening act of Confessions is in itself a masterclass of escalating tension and well worth the price of admission, remarking the casual cruelty of youth with blunt-force impact, while the apathy of an entire generation is exaggerated to deadly, even satirical means (though the humour here is close to pitch black). In many ways tracing the same trajectory as Battle Royale – a more realistic, also pessimistic vision though it is – Confessions laments an age of youth disaffected by social networking and our increasing reliance on insulatory technological “advances”, where the ubiquity of media outlets grants even apparently “innocent” children the chance to develop an ego and sense of entitlement at an age liable to be horrifying to anyone born as recent as 1995. [ read more ]

“Confessions” is the winner of 4 major awards at the 34th Japan Academy Prize, including Director of the Year for Tetsuya Nakashima, who also did Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko.

It participated in and was invited to 10 international film festivals with major wins – including “Best Asian Film” at the 30th Hong Kong Film Festival.


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