The latest run of Japanese writer-director-editor Hirokazu Koreeda’s career has been rich with heart-crunching stories of children and their families or lack of families, but his knack for combining elusive emotion with precise gestures again impresses and thrills in this all-adult psychological drama. It’s exceptionally noir stuff for a filmmaker who traffics in crushing sentiment that comes from accruing quietude. The strangely beautiful and relentlessly suspenseful delirium of “The Third Murder” (Sandome no satsujin) grows complex with its testimony from a confessed murderer about a brutal second crime he’s charged with after thirty years in prison. Superficially a battle of wills between public defender Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) and ex-con Misumi (Koji Yakusho) over whether Misumi will get the death penalty, “Third Murder” grows and transforms into a dense dramatic fog. Yakusho (“Babel,” “Cure,” “Charisma,” “Tampopo,” “Eureka”) is one of my favorite actors, and the wealth of expressions that play across his face as he is interrogated again and again about the bloody things he has done are supremely haunting.
It’s all a big shrug for his endlessly affable Misumi: “People’s lives get decided for them, no matter what they want.” Themes bristle; ambiguity is a form of play; understated visual notions accrue in nourishing widescreen compositions; behavior is inexplicable; lyricism lies in a serene command of detail. This is a loving, lovely work by a master filmmaker. The off-kilter score is by Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi. 124m. Widescreen. (Ray Pride)
“The Third Murder” opens Friday, August 3 at Siskel.