Friday, January 27, 2006


Canary (Akihiko Shiota, 2004/2005)

This is my third movie by this director.
Akihiko Shiota isn't a director very well-known. I discovered him in 2001 with Harmful Insect which was in competition at the 3 Continents Film Festival. It actually won Special Jury Award and Best Actress award. Already this movie dealt with a young girl of 12 years old who had a complicated family life and had an early love experience with an ex-teacher. She quitted school after her mother's suicide attempt and met other drifted people.
Canary deals also with young kids, and inspired by the cult wave, a subject that has been recently used on screen. With Canary, Akihiko Shiota is in the vein of Hirokazu Koreeda, Shinji Aoyama and Kyoshi Kurosawa (more like Bright Future type).
It's even closer to Nobody Knows since the main characters here are 2 youngsters of 12 years old, a boy, Koichi and a girl, Yuki.
The cult in question in this film is called Nirvana but highly recalls of the Aum cult that made the deadly 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack. Koichi's mother decided to join the Nirvana cult, a strict religious sect, with her two children, Koichi and his younger sister. As soon as they arrived, the children are separeted from their mother, and they have to stay with the other children in order to follow the rules, the practices of the cult. After a murderous gas attack on the Tokyo subway, the authorities arrested most of the members, the cult was disbanded. The children were placed into child welfare. But Kiochi escaped from it, still believing in the dogma and rituals. His only goal is to find the remnants of his family. On the road, in the countryside, he runs across Yuki, a young girl who's having a difficult family life.

This road movie develops the relationships between the characters and their progression, changings in their belief, character and behaviour. The narrative is very well handled by offering every now and then, but at the right moment, some flashbacks. The two leading young actors deliver a very great performence - as great as in Nobody Knows. The cinematography and the camera work are both well thought. And I found the movie particularly moving. I much prefered Canary than Harmful Insect and Yomigaeri, his work has very well improved since, he's surely a director to follow.



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