Director - Sion Sono
Cast - Shota Sometani, Fumi Nikaido
Country of Origin - Japan
Discs - 2
MSRP - 13.99
Region - B
Distributor - Third Window Films
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (4.5/5)
Since the release of his cult epic, Love Exposure, in 2008 direction Sion Sono has become a valued cult film commodity. His films are visually impressive, offer a great deal of thematic heft, and have intriguing plotlines that can pretty much go in any direction. When Third Window Films sent over a package of Blu-ray's containing both Love Exposure and Himizu, I was tempted to immediately revisit the earlier classic in high definition, and wait on Himizu. Due to scheduling conflicts (Love Exposure is 4 hours long, and I didn't want to break it up), I decided on watching Himizu which until hitting my door step I had only heard a few things about.
Himizu, and I certainly hope I am not exaggerating maybe Sion Sono's masterpiece. Understand I have only seen 3 of his recent films (Cold Fish, Love Exposure, and this), but out of those 3 Himizu at least upon first viewing feels the most powerful. Himizu (Japanese for Mole), is adapted from the Manga of the same name, and tells the story of two teenagers Sumida, a young boy who lives with his Mother, together they run a boat house in the Japanese countryside. One day Sumida's Mother leaves him for a man, giving him total responsibility over the boat house, his deadbeat Father's yakuza debts, and the drifters who live in tents on the property surrounding the boat house. We also have Keiko, a girl who describes herself as Sumida's stalker. She is obsessed, and in love with Sumida, and with his Mother's absence does his best to help support him after he drops out of school.
Sumida, after becoming frustrated with his Father one day, ends up killing him, and burying the body in a muddy shallow grave. Already feeling the emotional weight from his Mother's absence, and his Father's murder, he begins to distance himself from the community and friends who surround him. He decides to take on the role of a vigilante figure, and attempts to do right by trying to kill bad people, in an attempt to right his wrong.
Himizu is the first film I have seen that takes on life in Japan in the post-Fukushima era. Sion Sono was already deep in pre-production on his adaptation of the manga when the tsunami occurred, but after it happened, he instinctively changed course ever so slightly setting the film in the events aftermath. The film as we see it now, has a greater emotional impact as it now ties into those events. Sumida even as the film begins is an emotionally distant character, but as the film continues he becomes more so, pushing away anyone who is willing to help him on his journey. Couple this with the news stories coming out of Japan after the tsunami of people risking, and in some cases losing their lives for the greater good of the country, and it is hard not to see the connection between Sumida's character, and the country as a whole.
When one of the older drifters commits an unspeakable act in order to raise the money to pay back the Yakuza so Sumida will not have to suffer. Sumida rejects him, and kicks him off the boat house property, however, he returns later showing his affection for the boy by helping to restore the boat house. The themes of humanity in the face tragedy are thick on this film.
The performances across the board are simply amazing, when the films credits begin it is announced that is is the winner of the Marcello Mastroianno Acting Award at the 68th Venice Film Festival, and it is not hard to see why. The cast of this film is uniformly excellent bringing great emotional depth to their characters. The visuals from director Sono definitely reflect the mood of the piece from stark drab moments to brightly colored visual pieces, and even a very beautiful scene by candlelight.
With Love Exposure Sion Sono became a director to pay attention to, over the years since he has failed to disappoint. With Himizu he may have made his masterpiece up to this point.
Third Window Films have presented Himizu in a gorgeous 1:85:1 1080p transfer that is simply amazing looking. The fine detail is fantastic, colors are bright and rich, black levels are solid for the most, and the image quality is consistent through the film.
The audio has been presented in a similarly impressive 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track in Japanese with Optional English Subtitles. This track sounds absolutely fantastic, with dialogue coming through crisp and clear, sound effects practically popping from your speakers, and the music coming through loud, and solid. On the A/V side this is a near perfect presentation.
Third Window Films have put together a fantastic slate of extras for their Blu-ray release of Himizu. The disc kicks off with a bunch of deleted scenes equaling about 30 minutes in length. We then have the finest extra on the disc a 72 Making of Himizu that shows the films production from writing to the premiere. We then have a 20 minute interview with the actor Denden who played a gangster in this film. The disc is rounded off by the films theatrical trailer.
Himizu is the high water mark in a career that has seen many. It is a beautiful dramatic piece of art that really helps show the impact of the tsunami/Fukashima crisis on Japan. It is wonderfully acted, directed, and stylized. The A/V is among the best I've seen on any disc this year, and the extras are both elaborate and interesting. Himizu comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to film viewers of all stripes. If you are Region B capable this disc is a must own.