Shôjo   2016   Japan Night's Tightrope
Night's Tightrope Image Cover
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Director:Yukiko Mishima
Studio:Toei Company
Writer:Kanae Minato, Kana Matsui, Yukiko Mishima
IMDb Rating:6.8 (24 votes)
Duration:120 min
Yukiko Mishima  ...  (Director)
Kanae Minato, Kana Matsui, Yukiko Mishima  ...  (Writer)
Tsubasa Honda  ...  Yuki
Gorô Inagaki  ...  Takao / Uncle
Mackenyu  ...  Makise
Ryô Satô  ...  
Mizuki Yamamoto  ...  Atsuko
Comments: In order to cleanse my palate of the man universe of old-timey Japanese films I went for red meat. A story of suicidal high school girls, directed by a woman. It's based on a novel by Kanae Minato, whose other adapted works include Confessions, Penance, and The Snow White Murder Case. This one is no Flying Colors. Of the three adult men in the film, one is a convicted train groper who also participates in compensated dating with young girls, one is accused of train groping and abandons his wife and terminally ill young son, and one is a school teacher who steals a student's manuscript and wins an award for it but ends up committing suicide. Karma to the man universe of old-timey Japanese films! The one adult woman is a disgusting religious fanatic. "Reap what you sow" is an oft uttered refrain in the film. It's a common theme of contemporary Japan to explain the ennui of youth by juxtaposition to adult fuckeduppedness. But ...


I wasn't very enthusiastic about the film's pacing, oblique mystery, or acting, but the cinematography is very nice. There are a lot of shots lit and framed exceptionally well, and they use a wide range of delicious colors (not just the dark and misty represented here). This one, of a moonlit girl with a strong breeze against her face made my jaw drop. It's CGI, but the way it makes her hair look like it creates a swirling tunnel to the moon is outstanding:

Conquer your weaknesses.jpg

The script includes a lot of "The Lord of Darkness" this, and "Now is the time for Night to begin" that, because a lot of it comes from the novel one of the girls is writing—the one her teacher steals. She's writing it to bring her friend back from the brink of despair. It's a pretty complex plot with clues that go by quickly. In the end I was left with a few mysteries unresolved, but the overall gist is understandable: friendship, bullying, angst, adult scum, and etc.

The reason the film didn't work for me is the two main actresses are weak. They are both very popular goody-two-shoe girls who went against type for the film. They each have a couple moments, but too often you can see them trying to act emotions that are unfamiliar to them.

I can only recommend the film as an introduction to Yukiko Mishima, and to those who don't immediately dismiss Japanese films about high school girls as being about high school girls. I think Mishima shows a lot of promise here. She needs to figure out how to move complex plots along at a swifter pace, but I really like her visual style. She'll also do better when she gets better actors. This is her fourth film and may be a breakthrough. Her next film, Dear Etranger, stars Tadanobu Asano and Rena Tanaka. Good luck!

The writer of the novel this film is based on also wrote the book Confessions (and the others mentioned) was based on, but they were filmed by different directors. I brought it up because the writer seems to write rather dark material. The director of this film doesn't have much of substance preceding this one. But I was quite impressed with a lot of the photography and think with good actors she might hit one out of the park. The shot above is a street light, not the moon. Oops. The film also has a lot of standard high school girl movie tropes like long shots of girls holding hands and running:

girls running.jpg ​

Summary: Based on the novel Shojo by Kanae Minato, watch for the story of high school student Yuki who plans to see a dead body. She is more than just a little jealous of another student who has seen the corpse of a person. The morbidity has its origin in the life of young girls growing up, high school bullying, teenage rivalry and adult tyranny.

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