Buried within Kei Ishikawa’s artfully moody debut feature, Traces of Sin, are two intriguing narrative strands. The first involves the long-lasting effects and indelible scars of physical and sexual abuse committed by a family member—an act that impacts this film’s two main characters, crime reporter Tanaka (Satoshi Tsumabuki) and his sister Mitsuko (Hikari Mitsushima), who’s been jailed for severely neglecting her child. The other strand of interest here, which is explicated through investigative flashbacks, concerns the realm of Japan’s hierarchical social elites, who determine people’s access and success in the academic and corporate worlds. This latter subject is crucially pertinent to an unsolved case that Tanaka is investigating, which involves the murder of an entire upper-class family. Alas, the murder mystery itself does Traces of Sin no favors, well-acted and technically accomplished as it is. Ishikawa’s preferred storytelling method, the withholding of key information, is as crude and ultimately predictable as his visuals are elegant.
Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival | Dispatch 2.