by Lawrence Garcia Film Horizon Line

The Third Murder | Hirokazu Kore-eda

July 20, 2018

From the title alone, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s follow-up to After the Storm is unlikely to elicit the usual comparisons to Ozu; broadly speaking, The Third Murder is another family drama, but its focus is the murder of a factory owner by an aging worker, Misumi (Kōji Yakusho), who was previously convicted for two long-ago killings. Shades of Rashomon emerge as defense attorney Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) navigates the particulars of the case and slowly gets drawn into the web of Misumi’s ever-changing recollections. Interview scenes between the two are genuinely unsettling, a credit to both Yakusho’s frightening opaqueness and Kore-eda’s formal precision.

Throughout, there’s a procedural focus that’s unusual for this director, although his penchant for staid tastefulness ultimately prevents a full reckoning with the material’s sinister core. (One wonders what Kiyoshi Kurosawa, say, would do with this material.) But the film’s final shift to full-on courtroom drama — and its series of collusive glances, unspoken understandings, and ominous high-angle framings — is eminently fascinating, particularly in the way that Shigemori’s pursuit of truth strains against the practically predetermined outcome of the narrative. Conceptually dense, if also lacking the necessary ambiguity, The Third Murder makes a compelling case for future such departures for Kore-eda.

Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival 2018 | Dispatch 2.