The Third Murder
Dear Danny and Fern,
By the time you read this I will have already arrived back home, four days before TIFF's end. Attempting to cram everything into a shortened schedule was a struggle for me, but I’m very satisfied with what I’ve seen and those few people that I’ve met. I wish I could've stayed longer, and I hope to be back soon!
As a newcomer, I found TIFF to be a welcoming space that merges the many fruits of Toronto-tourism, cinephile gatherings, and late night city walks. And many, many movies! Possibly too many, but better more than less! There were a few rough patches but they were more tied to my inexperience (forgetting to charge my phone, forgetting to check my schedule, forgetting to eat, forgetting to sleep…) than anything. The sheer magnitude of the event made even the easiest tasks feel like a series of very scary quests, but it was uplifting to see an entire city (and its visitors) excitedly piling into the theatres. I’m in the plane now, and replaying the last week in my head feels like I am trying to hold onto one long dream.
Although there are only two dream sequences in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Third Murder, their jarring appearance produced such chills in me that I nearly felt sick. An endless lucid nightmare, The Third Murder buries itself deep into the law from the beginning to the end of a murder trial with so many turns that justice itself begins to feel as numbing and sunken as a bottomless pit. Reversing his gig as a lawyer-hating cop in John Woo’s Manhunt, Masaharu Fukuyama plays Shigemori, a hardened attorney with a penchant for perceptive interrogations and rummaging through crime scenes. Shigemori is not committed to upholding the law so much as paving paths around it. In The Third Murder, he must defend murder-robbery suspect Misumi (Hirose Suzu), a factory worker accused of killing and setting his boss on fire. Having already confessed to the crime, Shigemori's only job appears to be re-configuring Misumi's case so that he may avoid the death sentence. But soon the tapestry tangles: Misumi admits to never having committed the crime, and a key witness admits to having encouraged the crime. The lawyer is thrust into a fog where neither law nor truth appears entirely correct, and where he finds, in himself, a sense of relation towards the murderer. The Third Murder may as well be Hirokazu Kore-eda's Manhunt, or Manhunt 2: Through the Looking Glass.
Much of Kore-eda's screenplay consists of office roundtable discussions and discourses on Japanese law, and however boring this may sound, these conversations also lay out conflicting reasonings regarding the ethics of its death penalty, and human nature's relationship to crime. No side is privileged as right, and the film's experiments in superimpositions and two-shots would claim that, in fact, there are no sides to justice when each individual stands on a point of subjectivity. Reminiscent of earlier works such as Maborosi (1995), After Life (1998), and Distance (2001), this time Kore-eda’s skill for hiding cuts between the real and unreal evokes genuine terror, especially when this liminality poses the question of what constitutes any idea—if everything known is to be questioned—at all. Those expecting the photosynthetic qualities of the auteur’s family fables may be disappointed, but even at its coldest, The Third Murder reversely adds depth to Kore-eda's earlier films by ascending overhead to reveal the larger political mechanisms behind his formerly small-scale and intimate world.
Opening on a scene of two figures on a barren path, Minjung Kim's short (100ft), which premiered in this year's Wavelengths program titled Figures in a Landscape, likewise adopts a cool approach to deconstructing objectivity. The title of the three-minute film is a play on the length of its 100 foot roll of film, as well as the unit of length with indeterminate origins and questionable rules and parameters. One foot at a time until reaching one hundred, the two walk from one corner of the frame to another. Though at first they walk side by side, the pair's distance grows as one walks farther ahead, the landscape remaining still. A meditation on everything from the falseness of the imperial system to the individual pacing of personal growth, (100ft) conceptualizes human difference even by measurements accepted as truth, and conjures an image of a togetherness that still binds the two even with an increasing space between.
Until we meet again,