Zero Focus (『ゼロの焦点』): Intrigue, Murder, and Mystery in 1950s Ishikawa

Nothing says summer to me like a good mystery or horror film, and what better to kick off summer than one set in Ishikawa?

From the official Toho website.

Zero Focus, or 『ゼロの焦点』, is based on Matsumoto Seichô’s novel of the same name. Directed by Inudô Isshin, the 2009 film is a remake of the 1961 version. In the film, newlywed Uhara Teiko’s husband, a native of Ishikawa, travels to Kanazawa on a business trip and never returns. Teiko then travels to Ishikawa and finds herself caught up in a web of political intrigue.

Set mainly in Kanazawa and Hakui, the film is shot in muted tones that mimic the persistently overcast weather of Ishikawa and give the film a retro feel, though one more like a faded photo than an early Technicolor film. The cinematography and the plot are both reminiscent of a Hitchcock film, and I also really enjoyed that all the Ishikawan characters all have really great Kanazawa/Noto accents–if you ever need to explain what living in Ishikawa sounds like, this is your film!

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but if you are interested in women running for  office,  sex and politics during the MacArthur administration, or beating the summer heat by looking at images of the Ishikawan winter, head over to your local DVD rental store and check this one out.

Advanced Japanese study:  There are no English subtitles on the DVD, but there are Japanese ones. Now is the perfect chance to polish your reading-while-listening skills and brush up on your murder-mystery and post-war vocabulary, like 毒薬 (dokuyaku, poison) and パンパン (panpan, an Occupation-era term for prostitutes who generally catered to the occupying forces).


Hirosue Ryôko as Uhara Teiko

Nishijima Hidetoshi as Uhara Yûichi

Nakatani Miki as Muroda Sachiko

More information

Toho’s official page

Trailer on Youtube

Leah Zoller is a second-year CIR, the current editor of this blog, and a lifelong Hitchcock fan.

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