THE CASTLE OF SAND (SUNA NO UTSUWA)
(director/writer: Yoshitaro Nomura; screenwriters: Shinobu Hashimoto/Yoji Yamada/based on a novel by Seicho Matsumoto; cinematographer: Takashi Kawamata; editor: Kazuo Ota; music: Yasushi Akutagawa; cast: Tetsuro Tanba (Detective Imanishi), Go Kato (Eiryo Waga), Kensaku Morita (Detective Yoshimura), Yoko Shimada (Reiko), Karin Yamaguchi (Sachiko), Yoshi Kato (Waga’s Father), Kazuhide Haruta (Motoura Hideo), Chishu Ryu (Kirihara), Ken Ogata (Miki), Seiji Matsuyama (Miki’s grocer Son); Runtime: 143; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Shinobu Hashimoto/Yoshiharo Mishima/Masayuki Sato; Janus (Panorama; 1974-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“The acclaimed procedural police story was the director’s biggest box office hit.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A superb mystery yarn directed with meticulous detail and great insight by renown Japanese filmmaker Yoshitaro Nomura(“Zero Focus”/“The Incident”/”Writhing Tongue”), someone whose films rarely are shown in the West. “Castle” is based on the crime novel by Seicho Matsumoto. Nomura wrote the complex crime drama screenplay with Shinobu Hashimoto and Yoji Yamada. The acclaimed procedural police story was the director’s biggest box office hit.
An unidentified body of an elderly man bludgeoned to death is found in the Tokyo train yards. It’s determined he was killed somewhere else and his body dumped there. Veteran detective, Inspector Imanishi (Tetsuro Tanba), an amateur poet, and an eager young detective, Yoshimura (Kensaku Morita), are sent by train from Tokyo to the northern Akita Prefecture to follow the only clues–witnesses said the vic mentioned Kameda and spoke with a Tohoku accent. After following leads in various areas on the island of Honshu, in rural towns and in Osaka, the cops catch a break as a young adult (Seiji Matsuyama) looking for his missing father identifies the mysterious corpse as his adopted father Miki (Ken Ogata). Through flashbacks and legwork, the detectives determine Miki was a model policeman some twenty years ago and since retiring moved back to his hometown in Emi to run a grocery store and live a quiet life. In their intensive investigation they uncover that what led to the crime actually began during the Second World War. Their investigation follows the trail of an upcoming talented young composer Eiryo Waga (Go Kato), his leper father (Yoshi Kato), an industrialist’s daughter (Karin Yamaguchi) and a spurned pregnant bar hostess (Yoko Shimada).
Nomura weaves the complex story together by stretching it out from the past to the present, as he speaks about things that could drive people to their brink. The lush color film takes us to a Japan not often seen by tourists and to a high concept procedural police drama rarely realized. It’s a work of great integrity and commitment. The only fault was that it went on for too long.
REVIEWED ON 6/16/2015 GRADE: A- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/