22 January 2014 | barkingechoacrosswaves
Amusing, Sad, Horrifying
This movie dramatizes the real-life adventures of a roving family of con artists who faked traffic accidents to extort money from unwitting victims all over Japan. It offers a tension-filled psychological study of depraved, sociopathic parents exploiting each other and their 10-year-old son for easy money. The acting is remarkably good, particularly on the part of the boy who takes up the family trade with a mixture of gusto and reluctance.
The cinematography is wonderful -- many shots are taken at a distance from the subjects, often through half-open doors, semi-closed blinds and other obstructions. The camera work reinforces the message, subliminally, that these are dangerous people living on the margins of society, and it is best to watch their antics at a safe distance. The film editing is excellent, particularly in the scenes where traffic mishaps are being plotted and executed by the family.
My only quibble is that the film does at times have a mannered, contrived quality. For example, it abruptly switches from color to black and white and back again to color. At times, as when the black and white footage is quite overexposed, the effect is constructive and adds to the strained atmosphere; at other times, though, you feel a little whipsawed to little purpose.
This film is as worthwhile as it is off the beaten track. Anyone with an interest in Japanese cinema or aberrant families would do well to see it.