18 April 2014
BIFF 2014 #4: ZERO NO SHOTEN / ZERO FOCUS (Yoshitaro Nomura, 1961, Japan)
The close up on director Yoshitarô Nomura deserves high praise indeed. Japanese scholar Alexander Jacoby offered an informed intro to the work of Nomura, positioning him as a director who had his fair share of box office hits while carving out specific genre interests in film noir, thrillers and melodrama. In the words of Jacoby, Zero Focus is very typical of Nomura as a director as it depicts characters in transit, noir idioms and social issues of the time. What struck me immediately was Nomura’s use of the widescreen space, composing bold shots, organising characters in the landscapes, and choosing to frame from an aesthetic and thematic sensibility. The melodrama emerges from the perspective of the wife who goes on a journey to find her missing husband but this becomes a perfunctory plot device, allowing Nomura to use genre as a vehicle to explore gender issues especially feminine sensibilities. An underlying quality of directors who worked in the confines of a studio system, be it in America or Japan, was their capacity to master the art of narrative economy, something that seems to have gone amiss in today’s contemporary cinema. Unfortunately I never got round to seeing any of the other Nomura films playing at the festival but Roy Stafford's coverage makes for essential reading.