Zero Focus follows Teiko, a woman who is looking forward to beginning a new life with her new husband. Just after their honeymoon, Kenichi goes off to Kanezawa for what he promises to be brief business trip. However, he ends up going missing without a word. As she investigates his dissappearance she realizes just how little she knew about him. It is quite the intriguing little film. I would like to start off with some negative comments before diving into the good. First off, are the so-called English subtitles which are atrocious. They don’t even make sense. Another thing that I thought was very weird was the fact that this is a remake of a film that is over 40 years old and yet they couldn’t update the setting to counter with todays effect and modern signatures. But, ultimately, Zero Focus is more than just a murder mystery. It is so much more.
If Hitchcock had been Japanese, this is how he’d done it. It is a hard film to watch at times, as there are mental breakdowns, stabbings, tears and more tears. Zero Focus is smartly crafted and its Western-style score underlines what’s most frightening in the proceedings. If what I have typed so far hasn’t generated any interest, did I mention that there’s a serial killer who first started killing around the same time of Kenichi’s disappearance?
Then the bodies start turning up and she begins to understand that her investigation is a threat to someone. It really tends to have moments of brilliance and we certainly find those here. After all, Teiko’s only clue to her husband’s whereabouts is a pair of strange postcards she finds among his belongings, each picturing a house in the snowy northern provinces. It takes courage to tell a story like Inudo does with this film and it begs to be watched over and over to catch new things you might have missed the first go around.
This is not a string of events to lull the viewer to sleep, capped by a jumbled explanation of mundane events. No, instead, it is nicely acted, beautifully shot, and contains intense drama. Zero Focus brilliantly brings to life Seicho Matsumoto’s story in true Hitchcockian style. Never a false step. But it’s an odd story, and one which struggles to work for Western audiences, partly because it’s so strongly rooted in Japanese history and partly because, in its structure and tone, it is deeply derivative of Western art. All in all, I have no qualls telling you guys to give this one a watch at some point.