The Films of Hirokazu Koreeda
After Life (February 9/02)
As After Life opens, a group of around 20 people have just arrived at what can best be described as a run-down schoolhouse. They're quickly informed that they are, in fact, dead and have been brought to this place to perform their final task before moving on. This task involves choosing one memory to take with them to the great beyond, where they'll relive that moment for the rest of eternity. Helping them to remember is a staff of employees, former human beings that spend their days cajoling long-forgotten memories out of the recently departed. Finally, once the memory has been chosen, a film crew of sorts is assembled to film the recollection as best they can, for an eventual screening for the soon-to-be heavenward bound.
After Life's premise is incredibly unappealing - really, who wants to relive the same moment over and over 'til the end of time? - and it's clear, too, that the movie's documentary-style structure does it absolutely no favors (ie this much dialogue about nothing by people we couldn't care less about eventually gets tedious).
And if that wasn't bad enough, the whole concept is somewhat confusing as well. After the dead people have selected their memory, a crew quickly gets to work assembling a set that's supposed to resemble the picture that's in their mind. The dead are assembled (after each memory has been filmed) in a screening room and forced to watch a poorly reconstructed version of their chosen remembrance - after which they are apparently sent to their final destination. This whole idea of re-filming something that's already occurred for each individual is bizarre and is never explained. Why can't each person move forward with the memory that's already in their mind?
After Life does contain some interesting ideas and genuinely moving emotional revelations, but it's too little too late - which confirms the movie's place as a potentially intriguing concept undone by flawed execution.
Like Father Like Son & Our Little Sister
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After the Storm
The Third Murder (June 13/18)
A trainwreck of epic, astounding proportions, The Third Murder details the confusing investigation that ensues after a man is beaten to death with a blunt instrument and set on fire by, presumably, an already-convicted killer named Misumi (Yakusho Kōji) - with the movie following Misumi's lawyer, Shigemori (Fukuyama Masaharu), as he attempts to discover what really happened that fateful day. Filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda delivers an excessively slow procedural that's almost entirely devoid of intriguing elements, with the bulk of the movie's impossibly padded-out narrative revolving around the aforementioned investigation and the protagonist's continuing interviews with his truth-impaired client. There's absolutely nothing here designed to capture and sustain the viewer's interest, as Koreeda, working from his own screenplay, proves unable (or unwilling) to transform any of the movie's central characters into fully-fleshed-out figures worth caring about or sympathizing with - which, in turn, prevents the viewer from even fleetingly working up an ounce of compassion for either Shigemori's tireless exploits or Misumi's life-altering plight. The payoff, when it finally does come, is in no way compelling enough (or coherent enough) to justify the interminable nature of everything leading up to it, which ultimately does secure The Third Murder's place as an astonishing misfire from a decidedly erratic filmmaker.