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    Slay, lady, slay

    Killing her sister is just what a dreary Japanese seamstress needed to perk up her life in the improbably likeable "Face."


    Masako is the kind of person about whom the neighbors say, "She was quiet. She mostly kept to herself. We never dreamed she would do something like this."

    Original title: Kao.
    Directed by: Junji Sakamoto.
    Written by: Junji Sakamoto, Isamu Uno.
    Cast: Naomi Fujiyama, Etsushi Toyokawa, Michiyo Ogusu, Kankuro Nakamura, Ittoku Kishibe, Hiroyuki Sato, Jun Kunimura, Riho Makise.
    In Japanese with English subtitles.
    New Directors New Films 2001
  • Overview
  • The Day I Became a Woman
  • Dinner Rush
  • Face
  • L.I.E.
  • Nine Queens
  • Peppermint Candy
  • The frumpy Japanese woman drearily approaches middle age from behind the antique sewing machine upstairs from her mother's dry-cleaning shop. Her chic, vivacious and sadistic sister Yukari occasionally traipses in from Tokyo bearing gifts — a bag of chips and some clothes to be mended, right away please. After tripping Masako, she stands over her sprawled sister and claims she didn't do it on purpose, adding gratuitously, "You really should check into a hospital. Mom says so too."

    Is it any surprise when Masako finally snaps? One day it's the perky Yukari we see sprawled across the floor and Masako stepping over her corpse to begin her flight from the law.

    As she steps out of the decrepit dry cleaners after the murder, we get a sunny day, bright colors and an incongruously upbeat old jazz tune. Also giving her a happy boost is the terrible Kobe earthquake, which causes mass confusion just when she needs to make her getaway. These are obvious signs from the director to us that this awful crime was the first day of the rest of Masako's life

    At first, she is able to evade capture just because she's beneath notice. Even while holding her wanted poster in their hands and looking right at her, people don't make the connection. But her flight from justice is also a personal awakening, as she makes the real friends she never had in her little room above the Kobe dry cleaners. More than that, she seizes every chance she has to do the things normal people do but she never could — like learning to ride a bicycle and swim — and her life gradually includes more laughter, singing, talking, dating and even a little awkward sex. Yet, emerging as a human being brings her closer to capture and she's forced to cut short her newfound friendships when she feels the law on her trail.

    "Face" is just the kind of movie for which cliches like "a triumph of the human spirit" were invented. Sometimes it feels trite, but other times it draws you into this woman's rebirth. Killer or not, you still have to root for her not only to escape but to find a safe home and a happy life. The ending, with its final twist as she's hunted down in a remote island village from which there's no escape, is corny but irresistible.

    MARCH 22, 2001

    Reader comments on Face:

  • Too much of a (maybe) good thing   from Ben, Jul 23, 2001
  • Re: Too much of a (maybe) good thing   from Joshua Tanzer, Jul 23, 2001
  • Preview Face   from Allan 'Duck' Donald, Apr 9, 2003
  • Re: Preview Face   from Shaunak, Apr 12, 2003

  • Post a comment on "Face"