Koji Nanbara

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Zero Focus Review


Very Good
The year is 1961, and in a wintry Tokyo train station, a young newlywed named Teiko bids farewell to her handsome new husband, Kenichi. Kenichi is concluding some business in the northern city of Kanazawa, promising a return on December 12, at which point the couple will begin their new life together. But, as Teiko waits, the 12th comes and goes and no word arrives from Kenichi. Soon Kenichi's employers are phoning, expressing first curiosity and then alarm. 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. When her husband's employers invite her to Kanazawa to help them locate Kenichi, this naïve young bride soon finds herself embroiled in a mystery whose complications include prostitution, suicide, and maybe even murder.

It sounds a lot like Hitchcock, and there's a good reason for that. Adapted from a mystery novel by Seicho Matsumoto for director Yoshitaro Nomura, Zero Focus is one of several successful collaborations between the two that draw on Western-style technique to approximate the same atmosphere of suspense and danger for which Hitchcock was by that time already well known. That's not to say that Zero Focus is in any way a knock-off; Nomura had his own technique, and it was a good one. But the comparison serves to show how many of Zero Focus's devices - the mouse-trap plot, the slow reveal, our heroine's voyage from innocence to revelation - are familiar to moviegoers as Hitchcock's stock in trade.

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