Tomorrow, 14th May, sees the UK DVD release of Japanese film Crime or Punishment?!?, written and directed by Keralino Sandorovich. Born Kazumi Kobayashi, this writer/director shows his surreal humour even through his Russian-sounding pen-name. Sandorovich is a big fan of German writer Franz Kafka, and admits that his writing of Crime or Punishment?!? has been influenced by Kafka’s novel The Castle and short story The Judgement. Sandorovich also loves slapstick comedy and black humour, and is a fan of the Marx Brothers, Monty Python and Woody Allen. Crime or Punishment?!? is the third film he has directed.
Have you ever experienced a day when you are carrying on as usual, just like the day before, but strange things keep happening? This is an eccentric slapstick comedy, filled with incongruous nightmares and nonsensical laughter.
Ayame (Riko Narumi) is an unsuccessful gravure idol, who reluctantly takes on the PR role of “police chief for a day” to pay for her crime of stealing a magazine. The job of a campaign girl is to smile and act as a police chief for one day. It should be a simple job, but the police station staff treat her like the real police chief and look to her for instructions. In addition, her ex-boyfriend, Haruki (Kento Nagayama), is now a detective at the station, and her subordinate for the day. Haruki is not just a detective though; he is also a somewhat blasé serial killer (a fact known to at least some of his colleagues).
Can Ayame make it as a police chief and solve the many inter-connected crimes that happen in this 24-hour period, and what will become of Haruki?
The preview copy of Crime or Punishment?!? that I watched today unfortunately didn’t have subtitles. However, I still managed to get the gist of the slightly crazy story, and actually really enjoyed it. This is a strange film though, and not one for fans of Hollywood blockbusters. The Japan Times quite accurately says in its review, “Contemporary Japanese comedies generally come in two varieties: wacky and noisy (most films written or directed by Kankuro Kudo), or quirky and dry (Satoshi Miki’s “Ten Ten” [“Adrift in Tokyo”] and Yosuke Fujita’s “Zen Zen Daijobu” [“Fine, Totally, Fine”]) … this comedy — one both wacky and noisy, quirky and dry — tosses conventional morality into a blender and hits the “high” button. The movie is not a plunge into an amoral abyss, though it does journey into the surreal, absurd and perhaps, if you take your Ten Commandments seriously, offensive.”
It’s also a movie which requires your attention, and perhaps a second sitting (next time with subtitles!) as, like other Japanese comedies I’ve watched recently, the story is not exactly linear. Plot lines get mixed up and woven together, and time flicks backwards and forwards.
This black comedy is certainly not to be taken seriously, and I don’t think its intention is to offend. If you like your laughs dark, and don’t mind a bit of comedic murder and violence, this is a movie worth checking out.
Crime or Punishment?!? is distributed by Third Window Films, and available from all your usual online retailers in the UK from 14th May.