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Crucified on a Cross, Not Pitied

MOVIE REVIEW
Confessions (2010)

Confessions-kokuhaku-tetsuya-nakashima-kanae-minato-japan
Japan Society

“Confessions,” the official Japanese entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category for this year’s Oscars, made the shortlist of nine but fell short of a nomination. Curiously, the film has much in common with the eventual victor, Denmark’s “In a Better World.” Each tackles the subjects of revenge and vigilantism through the delinquency of a fair-haired juvenile mastermind and his social-misfit accomplice. But whereas “In a Better World” offers a cop-out ending with no actual harm done, “Confessions” serves up shattering collateral damage far and wide.

Based on Kanae Minato’s best seller, “Confessions” seems to be a harsh indictment of everything and everyone in a Japan modernized and Westernized past the point of recognition, where disrespectful children, broken families, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and cellular chatter plague the society. It is truly ironic, then, that its protagonist, junior-high teacher Yuko Moriguchi (comedienne Takako Matsu playing against type), seeks to exact revenge on the two students who murdered her daughter in order to fulfill her duty to teach right from wrong. And this she does in some of the most cruel and unusual ways imaginable.

It’s tempting to dismiss Ms. Moriguchi as a deranged bitch, given the prolonged 30-minute opening scene during which she confronts her entire class about the murder and reveals enough information to identify the two killers without actually naming them. The rest of the class starts mercilessly bullying the fair-haired boy Shuya Watanabe (Yukito Nishii) while his accomplice Naoki Shimomura (Kaoru Fujiwara) succumbs to paranoia and stops attending school. As with “In a Better World,” “Confessions” presents the usual pop psychology, allowing insight into motivations behind the crime. But what sets “Confessions” apart is the fact that it doesn’t let its criminals off the hook — even if they are just children. In fact, it’s hard not to derive some perverse sense of pleasure out of witnessing justice served, no matter how sadistically.

Tetsuya Nakashima, who scripted and directed the film, here employs visuals as relentless as the story itself. Critics often take filmmakers to task for the A.D.D.-addled music-video approach, but this is one rare occasion where the style matches the substance perfectly.

Japan as a society has always seemed to regard its school kids with fondness, especially when they seem to be innocent yet wise beyond their years. The school uniform has also been a permanent pop-culture fixture, manifesting in music and manga. The same reverence seems to apply even when dealing with juvenile delinquents, such as in Shunji Iwai’s “All About Lily Chou-Chou.” But as did the seminal “Battle Royale,” “Confessions” exhibits a grim outlook that casts doubt on Japan’s younger generation. “Confessions” was a bona fide cultural phenomenon that sent shockwaves through Japan’s collective conscience before the tragic earthquakes and tsunami drove people further into soul-searching. Perhaps through the devastation and the struggle to recover, the Japanese can finally find answers that “Confessions” doesn’t offer.

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From Wikipedia:
全国266スクリーンで公開され、2010年6月5-6日初日2日間で興収2億6,983万5,200円、動員は19万4,893人になり映画観客動員ランキング(興行通信社調べ)で初登場第1位となった[8]。実写日本映画作品の首位獲得は2009年10月の『僕の初恋をキミに捧ぐ』以来となる。さらに口コミの影響もあり、興行収入が公開第2週土日2日間で20万523人、第3週で21万102人、第4週で21万888人と3週連続前週比越えとなる4週連続ランキング第1位を樹立。公開16日間で119万4,344人と100万人突破し、さらに公開23日間の累計興収が21億6,472万2,900円と20億円を超え、公開第8週目で35億円を突破するという予想外ともいえる大ヒットとなった[9][10][11][12]。最終興収は38.5億円になり、2010年度に日本で公開された日本映画の興行収入成績で第7位となった[1]。台湾でも2010年度興行収入邦画第1位[13][14]。

2011年1月19日、第83回米アカデミー賞外国語映画賞の第1次選考の9作品に残ったものの、最終ノミネートは逃した[15]。

日本国内の評価は賛否が分かれた。『キネマ旬報』誌選出の「2010年度日本映画ベストテン」では2位[16]、第34回日本アカデミー賞では最優秀作品賞・最優秀監督賞・最優秀脚本賞・最優秀編集賞を受賞した一方[2]、『映画芸術』誌選出の「2010年度日本映画ベストテン&ワーストテン」ではワースト1位に選出された。

映画公開後、原作である小説『告白』が再び注目を浴び、大きな売上となった。双葉社は、2010年4月、映画化に合わせるかたちで文庫本を出版し、それのみで約200万部のベストセラーとなったほか、Amazon.co.jpが発表した「2010年上半期Booksランキング・文庫(文芸)」では、販売期間がわずか2か月であったにもかかわらず、1位に輝いた[17]。

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