Fantasia 2014 | Report #4

filmfest fantasia_75Tickets to a concert featuring a classical trio with boy-band looks play a key role in the story.

 

 

 

 fantasia snow-white

The films just keep coming, and even overlooking one so secret I can’t even mention its name until it officially opens in Canada, I’m well behind on my reports. My favorite of the almost-week I have been here is The Snow White Murder Case, a fast-moving Japanese murder mystery directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. It makes the best use of social media in the service of a plot that I have ever seen, and contains a good dosage of satire on the be-first not be-right-first school of television journalism. The publicity materials tout it as taking a Rashomon-like approach to a murder case, but that’s not really true. You get different versions of events, as told from different points of view (with self-serving lies mixed in), but the effect is humorous rather than philosophical, and you do eventually learn what happened.

The main characters work in a cosmetics company whose blockbuster product is Snow White soap, hence the film’s title. When the body of the beautiful Noriko Miki (Nanao) is found stabbed and burned in a national park, her rather goofy coworker Risako Kano (Misako Renbutsu) calls up her slacker friend (he seems to spend most of his time reviewing, usually snidely, noodle shops on Twitter) as well as television cameraman Yuji Akahosi (Go Ayano), being sure he’ll want the chance to break a big story. Yuji snaps at the bait and creates a news segment implying that another employee, “Miss S,” a.k.a. coworker Shirono Miki (Inoue Mao), was the perpetrator, although he has no real evidence that this is the case.

The Snow White Murder Case is adapted from a novel by Minato Kanae, and it offers so many pleasures that even if you’re not a murder mystery fan, you can find something to enjoy about it; despite running just over two hours (126 minutes), it never seems long. One saving grace is that this film is very funny, full of knowing asides about the absurdity of modern office life, consumer culture, and semi-classical music fandom (tickets to a concert featuring a classical trio with boy-band looks play a key role in the story). For another, the key players are all female (not something you can say about many American films), and each is a distinct character rather than a stereotype.

The cinematography is always crisp and clear, and enough locations are used that you feel like you’re getting a little travelogue of Japan as an extra bonus. The use of social media as a plot element is the real breakthrough, however—the case is frequently discussed on Twitter, with the tweets almost filling up the screen and obscuring the characters in the story—which you could take as a commentary about virtual reality displacing “real” reality. You can see the trailer for The Snow White Murder Case here.  | Sarah Boslaugh

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