September 9, 2012

Filthy Review - 'Kotoko'

Kotoko (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

Many moons ago, around 1989/1990, I purchased Tetsuo: The Iron Man on VHS. It was directed by, and starred, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, and quite frankly it blew my mind with its industrial body horror storyline. Unfortunately, aside from one or two, I have not seen every movie Tsukamoto has made since, but I was very excited when Kotoko arrived in the mail. This time around the horrors have been moved from the body and instead rest within the mind of our protagonist, Kotoko.

Kotoko, played quite wonderfully by Japanese songstress Cocco, who incidentally came up with the original story for this film, is a single mother trying her best to raise her son. Unfortunately she also suffers from double vision, which causes her to see two of the same thing and being unable to distinguish which is the real one. This affliction has a terrible effect on her mind, driving her closer to madness and some serious self-harm.

Due to her mental health, the powers that be decide that she is unfit to be a mother, accusing her of child abuse, and take her son away from her. Quite unsurprisingly this does not have a positive effect on Kotoko. In fact the only time that she feels normal is when she is singing. These times are few and far between though, and the horrors of the mind are only just beginning.

I’ll tell you straight off the bat that Kotoko is not what you would traditionally call a horror film, it’s in fact more of a psychological drama, but some of the events and imagery displayed in this film would put many, if not most, horror films to shame. It’s a real tour-de-force of a movie that will leave you scarred. Tsukamoto puts the camera deep into the heart of the action; its movements seemingly mirroring Kotoko’s mental state. Due to this raw camerawork some viewers might be put off, as the camera rarely stays still, but I would say that you should most definitely bear with it, as this is a truly stunning movie.

As a parent some of the scenes hit really hard, being as some of the more visceral scenes do involve Kotoko’s son. That being said it is a brutal film on many levels, and that blood and bruises are never too far away. Aside from the visual intensity, Kotoko also hits hard on an emotional level, and Cocco’s performance really brings out the power in the script. Judging her purely on this performance I would say that she is definitely an acting star of the future, with this performance being quite incredible.

Kotoko is far from easy viewing, and those looking for an upbeat film would do well to avoid this film. Sure, there are some light-hearted and even uplifting moments, but these are few and far between and usually nestled uncomfortably between some uncompromisingly jarring moments.

So, is Kotoko all doom and gloom? Not to my eyes. Yes, it is relatively bleak and incredibly visceral in places, but there is also a strange beauty to everything. Regardless, this film impressed me no end and it is already a strong contender for my favorite film of the year, as I thought it was that good.

Kotoko is release by Third Window Films on Blu-ray and DVD on October 8th and pre-order links can be found here.

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