It’s been a while since I last saw a film coming out of Japan that I have found truly inventive, truly exciting and truly satisfying. Perhaps not since Love Exposure, the 4-hour masterpiece from Sion Sono, way back in 2008. So I can’t express how grateful I am to the Japanese Film Festival for the opportunity to see The Brain Man, the latest film from Tomoyuki Takimoto, director of JFF 2011’s crowd favourite Star Watching Dog.
Any description of this film’s plots could be considered a spoiler. So I won’t discuss it here except to say that unlike Star Watching Dog, The Brain Man is not a tear-jerking, heart-wrenching drama. Instead it is a challenging and compelling psychological thriller. From the film’s opening scene (that might give you the wrong impression that the film is Japan’s answer to Saw), suspense builds and builds and doesn’t ease until the film’s last frame. And when the end credits roll, you will realise you have just seen an amazing film.
Playing the central character, Toma Ikuta is without a doubt the star and the focus of the film. Proving that he is well capable of handling a complex role, Ikuta gives an absolutely mesmerizing performance here. It’s his character that makes the story so interesting and his performance that makes the film so intriguing. The character does not have a lot of dialogue, and much of the portrayal relies on facial expressions and body language. And Ikuta handles it remarkably well. This young man has really come a long way since starring in films like Hanamizuki (my favourite at JFF 2010). Performances from the rest of the cast that includes Himizu’s Fumi Nikaido, Goemon (JFF 2009)’s Yosuke Eguchi and Hula Girl’s Yasuko Matsuyuki are all fantastic.
The Brain Man reminds me of why I love Japanese cinema. It is a suspenseful psychological thriller with an interesting central concept and one very special main character. It may not be for everybody, but if it sounds like something you may enjoy, I urge you not to miss it.
The Brain Man is screening as part of the 17th Japanese Film Festival until December 8. Please check the website for screening times in your city.