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Thread: THE THIRD MURDER (2017/8) excellent legal thriller by H. Koreeda

  1. #1

    THE THIRD MURDER (2017/8) excellent legal thriller by H. Koreeda

    THE THIRD MURDER is a gentle movie about killing. While that may sound contradictory, it isn't in the hands of Japanese master Hirokazu Koreeda, one of our most humane filmmakers.

    The movie begins with the brutal murder, robbery and immolation of a factory manager. The accused killer Misumi (Koji Yakusho) immediately confesses. His lawyers, led by Shigamuri (Masaharu Fukuyama) try to convince him to at least not to confess to premeditated robbery (Japanese law mandates the Death Penalty for Murder in those cases). After several machinations, the case goes to trial.

    That is the 'plot' of the movie, but, it's not what Koreeda (who also wrote and edited the picture) intends the movie to be about. Instead, Koreeda explores what are the psychological and practical reasons for murder. Whether murder is ever justified. And, even whether a murderer like Misumi has value as a human being. For the lawyer, it isn't about 'the law' or even representing his client, as much as the movie delves into whether the truth matters as all to his defense work - or, even if it's important that he knows for certain his client's guilt or innocence (there's a marvelous overhead shot of Shigamuri that concisely symbolizes the various threads his character goes through). While THIRD MURDER isn't as plot and twist driven as a John Grisham novel, neither is it simply a philosophical art-house film. There are plenty of angles and turns in story (no spoilers here). The cat & mouse between the accused and even his own lawyers is fascinatingly drawn. Fukyama and Yakusho (who won the Japanese 'Oscar'*) deliver fine performances. The photography and editing in their scenes together (especially when they at head to head through a prison glass window) are a master class in mounting tension.

    THIRD MURDER never takes the easy way out. There is no 'Perry Mason' moment where it all clicks into place. One has to be an active participant in unlocking the story's mysteries and meanings. Koreeda isn't a showy filmmaker (OUR LITTLE SISTER, Cannes Palme D'or winner SHOPLIFTERS), but he uses the camera, sound, editing and music to create an almost hypnotic air. About half-way through there's an amazing sequence which begins as a flashback and then melds into another character's projection -- seamlessly. THIRD MURDER is another exemplary entry in Koreeda's filmography. Also, seamlessly.

    * THIRD MURDER won 6 Japanese 'Oscars' including Best Picture, Screenplay and Director (Koreeda winning three overall including Editing).

    Interestingly, the movie is being relegated to a cursory release for a great Director like Koreeda. The reviews here have been very good, but not as extraordinary as a number of his earlier pictures have earned, six Japanese Oscars or not. Maybe it can be chalked up to cultural differences? The deliberate pace and odd rhythms might repay repeated viewings. It's almost as if they are using THIRD MURDER as an 'appetizer' for Koreeda's "real 2018" release, the Cannes Palme D'Or winner, SHOPLIFTERS. For myself, SHOPLIFTERS is going have be truly exceptional to surpass, or even equal, THIRD MURDER in my book.

  2. #2
    I saw this a few months back at a screening presented by the South Bay Film Society & thought it was decent but not worth all the buzz. Not even in my top 5 Koreeda films. I will say this is the best that I've ever seen Fukuyama act. He's been pretty mediocre in all the other films that I've seen him in including Koreeda's LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (he was so outclassed by Franky Lily that it was borderline embarrassing). But you know the saying "even a broken clock is right twice a day" -- he must've mustered something special for this role.
    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  3. #3
    Scholar of Sleaze Paul L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 47lab View Post
    I saw this a few months back at a screening presented by the South Bay Film Society & thought it was decent but not worth all the buzz. Not even in my top 5 Koreeda films. I will say this is the best that I've ever seen Fukuyama act. He's been pretty mediocre in all the other films that I've seen him in including Koreeda's LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (he was so outclassed by Franky Lily that it was borderline embarrassing). But you know the saying "even a broken clock is right twice a day" -- he must've mustered something special for this role.
    Agreed on Fukuyama. I wanted to like LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON so much more than I did, and really enjoyed Franky Lily's performance, but Fukuyama was a weak link in that picture, I thought.

    THE THIRD MURDER was beautifully shot - the use of glass and reflections added depth to the interactions, suggesting something symbolic bubbling beneath the surface. It's an interesting film but not a great one and nowhere near Kore-eda's best. However, to me the film seemed to be more about family (especially the relationships between fathers and daughters, and Shigemori's relationship with his own father) than anything else.
    'You know, I'd almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow'

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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul L View Post

    . However, to me the film seemed to be more about family (especially the relationships between fathers and daughters, and Shigemori's relationship with his own father) than anything else.
    I think that's the entire key, here. It's interesting that a movie by a world class director could have such varied responses in his homeland (sweeping their 'Oscars') and here, where it's been largely seen as okay, but a disappointment. I am not Japanese, but, I think some of the cultural nuances may have been lost in translation as it were. Also, it's the kind of movie that I think will repay repeated viewings. On the surface, it's a legal thriller, but, in reality, it's another of Koreeda's family dramas.

  5. #5
    Film Movement is releasing this on blu ray in November. Available for pre-order now on Amazon. This is strictly for those region locked as the Region B blu ray from Arrow is much less expensive with superior supplemental features.
    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

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