The World of Kanako is an exciting post-Tarantino film from Japan. It has brisk, expressive editing that creates a bold, fractured storyline.
In addition, it has a Japanese actor (Kôji Yakusho, 13 Assassins) with the raw power and explosive subverted emotion of Toshiro Mifune. (Naturally, this style calls for a certain level of violence, which the film delivers).
Unfortunately, The World of Kanako slows down noticeably as it wears on. And by the end, the film is dragging, finding gratuitous ways to remain on screen.
Like Father Like Daughter
The world of Kanako (Nana Komatsu), a young woman in her late teens, is glimpsed through the eyes of her father, Akikazu (Yakusho). Kanako is popular and gregarious, but she gets into trouble with the wrong kinds of people. She’s been missing for several few days as the movie’s current timeline begins.
We come to learn about her through her father, who seems practically destroyed by her. In fact, he’s being questioned by police as we flash back to earlier points in his story. Since her father is a hothead and being questioned by police, it’s hard to take him very seriously when he blames his daughter and her friends for any trouble she may have encountered.
One scene shows her father coming back into contact with her mother Kiriko (Asuka Kurosawa). It only illustrates why mother and daughter left Akikazu in the first place. He loses his temper at the man who Kiriko is now seeing — to the point of endangering his life — and tries to rape Kiriko — in his mind, a romantic attempt to make up.
And yet, Akikazu spends time digging into his daughter’s past, trying to come to grips with who she was, trying to find out exactly where she went wrong. He probably only wants to exact revenge on the one who corrupted his daughter, but there’s also a hint of love or devotion there.
Never Stop Falling
Kanako’s story is revealed in fractured shards of storytelling. A boy seen in pictures with Kanako died of suicide, having jumped from a high building. Another boy might be ready to take his place... a boy who is the frequent target of bullying. Kanako seems too popular to hang out with this awkward boy, yet here she is, with him, for some reason.
Maybe one of her friends supplied drugs and possibly had Yakuza connections. Maybe she was even starting to take part in the organization.
Some of the later plot twists seem scripted and unnatural, if you stop to think about them. Luckily the film’s pace doesn’t give you much time to ask too many questions.
There is a recurring reference to Alice in Wonderland, "a girl who fell into a hole so deep she never stopped falling." I took that as a sign that the movie didn’t really expect me to follow every twist and turn, so eventually I gave up and trusted the movie to reveal it all at the end.
Best and Worst
And really, The World of Kanako is less about plot than style. And when it comes to style, it succeeds very well.
The best thing about Kanako is the editing. It’s fast, but not gratuitously fast. Early cuts show the state of mind Kanako’s father as he reacts to the questions of the police interrogation.
The credits, and the odd moment of violence, are reduced to a graphical, two-dimensional, posterized look. Its consistent but restrained use makes it surprisingly effective.
And the unleashed performances — mostly from Yakusho (the father), but also the police investigator who is always grinning, on the verge of laughing, and sucking a lollipop — add to the stylish vibe of the film.
The film’s greatest weakness is its ending. The final half an hour really starts to drag as the plot developments keep coming. The editing becomes less energetic and the film starts to fall flat. Even a very funny gunfight isn’t enough to keep one of the last scenes afloat.
Still, on the whole, I think The World of Kanako is worth a look.