Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda | Thriller | Japan | 120′
Festival favourite Hirokazu Kore-eda (Still Walking, Nobody Knows) offers an engrossing murder mystery about a defence lawyer who believes that his client — a self-confessed killer — is the fall guy for a conspiracy. A lengthy crime procedural provides the backbone to this luminously filmed but alienating arthouse affair that asks the question: who is judging the judges?
THE THIRD MURDER opens with the murder in the hilly outskirts of a Japanese city. We witmess the crime clearly but gradually doubt about its perpetrator slowly cloud our judgement as the (later to be convicted) murderer keeps changing his story, raising serious questions about the Japanese judicial system.This is an an well-crafted and intelligent film that, for non-Japanese audiences, would probably work better on the page than on the screen due to its lengthy scenes featuring be-suited lawyers discussing concepts that require us to flip up and down reading the subtitles watching the screen in case we miss any vital clues in this starkly monochrome thriller
The central character is the suave and convincing lawyer Shigemori (Fukuyama Masaharu/Like Father, Like Son) who is called to investigate the case of a man who has spent three decades in prison for a double murder and has subsequently confessed to killing his factory-owning boss and burning his body. We witness the murder in the opening scene so clearly Misumi (Yakusho Koji) is guilty; strangely, it is Shigemori’s father who handed him a life sentence, instead of the death penalty, putting paid to his recidivist ways, but times have changes.
The problem is he keeps changing his version of what happened.
Shigemori, the son of a retired judge, and his remit is to free his client by hook or by crook, constantly writing and re-writing his script to present the best chance of a get-out clause for the murderer. His own personal life is a mess, separated from his wife and at odds with his daughter, showing her none of his professional prowess when she is caught for shop-lifting. As he grows closer to Misumi, over the course of their encounters, the two seem to feel strangely similar in their modus operandi, albeit on either sides of the law.
This is a subtle but thematically rich crime thriller brilliant in concept but less so in execution, despite Takimoto Makiya’s stunning camerwork. That said, its universal themes ripple out to provide endless food for thought as we contemplate Ludovico Einaudi’s moody score. MT
Hirokazu Kore-eda was born in Tokyo, where he studied literature at Waseda University. He is a master dramatist whose features include Maborosi (95), After Life (98), Distance (01), Nobody Knows (04), Hana (06), Still Walking (08), Air Doll (09), I Wish (11), Like Father, Like Son (13), Our Little Sister (15), and After the Storm (16), all of which have played the Festival. The Third Murder (17) is his latest film.
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2017 | IN COMPETITION