INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL PREMIERE
Japan, 2022, 128’, Japanese
Directed by: Hiroki Ryuichi
Screenplay: Kataoka Sho
Music: Otomo Yoshihide
Producer: Kitajima Naoaki
Cast: Watanabe Daichi, Fujiwara Tatsuya, Matsuyama Kenichi, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Nagase Masatoshi
Date of First Release in Territory: January 28th, 2022
Set on a small fictional island with an aging and dwindling population, Hiroki Ryuichi’s Noise weaves a tangled web as the lies of the principal characters infect a tight-knit community. Working from Kataoka Sho’s script based on a manga by Tsutsui Tetsuya, Hiroki imbues the film with style, suspense and an unexpected pathos, while adroitly shifting from near farce to a more serious mode and keeping a discreet distance from his source material.
With its violent murders and desperate cover-ups, this film is fresh territory for the veteran Hiroki, who had settled into a pattern of alternating mass audience romantic dramas with critically acclaimed indie fare, but broke the cycle last year with the Netflix road movie Ride or Die starring Mizuhara Kiko and Sato Honami.
Noise is also on the commercial side of the scale but Hiroki’s signature feathery camerawork, which sensitively observes rather than mechanically records, sets the film stylistically apart from other mainstream films. Also, his musical tastes, which lean more toward tuneful understatement than broad-stroke underlining of emotional beats, are reflected in his collaboration with Otomo Yoshihide, a composer and guitarist whose thrumming bass notes deliver a Tarantino-esque tension and cool. Meanwhile, classical warhorses provide black comic counterpoints to the more frantic – and deadly – goings-on.
The film begins with a cheery middle-aged man extolling the virtues of the island as he drives a creepily silent passenger (Watanabe Daichi). Without warning the passenger fatally strangles his guide and, leaving the car, slinks into the property of Izumi Keita (Fujiwara Tatsuya), a farmer whose fig trees power the island’s economy.
A moody local hunter (Matsuyama Kenichi) and a nervous rookie cop (Kamiki Ryunosuke), both of whom are Keita’s childhood friends, spot the driver’s killer (while being unaware of his crime) and soon after Keita’s young daughter goes missing. Suspecting him of kidnapping, the trio confront the intruder and, in a struggle with the angry Keita, he is accidentally killed. When the girl is found unharmed, Keita and his friends realize they have both the wrong man and an inconvenient corpse.
The fig farmer knows that if he turns himself in his family and business will suffer a grievous blow. Also, the community is about to receive a large government grant, but this much-needed windfall may go up in smoke if Keita, who has become the island’s spokesman and star, is arrested. With the help of his two friends, who also want to protect the island, Keita decides to hide the body and stonewall the mainland cops when they come calling. The result is more bodies and lies.
That all this must end badly is obvious, but the story takes turns that are both surprising and shocking. It also evolves from a police procedural with a scruffy detective (Nagase Masatoshi) in a trench coat doggedly ferreting out the truth to a deeper commentary on the high price of group loyalty and the darker stirrings of the human heart.
Last seen together as co-stars on the hit Death Note films, Matsuyama and Fujiwara create a synergy that brings out their best as actors, though their characters are more conflicted. Old friends, we see, can keep old grievances alive, even if only one is aware they still exist
Born in 1955, Hiroki Ryuichi comes from the pink film industry. In 1994, 800 Two Lap Runners became his international breakthrough. He is the film industry’s go-to director for romantic dramas. In 2015 Hiroki returned to his pink film roots with Kabukicho Love Hotel (FEFF 2015), though his other two films for the year, A Man’s Life and Strobe Edge, were romantic dramas. He has continued to alternate between commercial works-for-hire and more personal projects, including Side Job. (2017). The film was named one of the ten best of the year in the Kinema Junpo critics’ poll. In 2021 he released his first film with Netflix, the lesbian road movie Ride or Die.
1994 – 800 Two Lap Runners
2003 – Vibrator
2008 – Your Friend
2009 – April Bride
2010 – The Lightning Tree
2015 – Kabukicho Love Hotel
2015 – Side Job
2021 – Ride or Die
2022 – Noise