Austin Film Festival Review: ‘Torao’

Greetings again from the darkness. Sometimes what we see on screen doesn’t tell the whole story about a movie. Writer-director Kazuya Murayama delivers his first feature film, and it’s based on the true story of a 1992 murder in Japan. Not only did Murayama fund the making of this film (there is no producer or Production Company), but the murder took place in the town where he was growing up … and in the same park where he often played.

Still, Murayama goes a step further. He cast the actual detective from that unsolved case, Torao, as himself. Kayako, a University student, is researching metasequoias (Dawn Redwood), which are known as “a living fossil”. She stumbles on the unsolved murder case of a young swimming coach and is drawn to finding out more. She attempts to interviews those who would have knowledge, though no one is willing to share any real information since the case was closed years ago.

Everything changes for her when she meets Torao, the former investigator/detective on the case. More interviews and an attempt to re-create the victim’s last day still don’t satisfy the girl. It’s Torao who is haunted by the case – it’s something he lives with and dwells on every day. The cinematic joy here is derived from contrasting the older, knowledgeable (one particular undisclosed detail), retired detective with the younger, eager, uninformed ‘partner’ in this re-investigation. It’s an unconventional end for a procedural murder case movie, and it’s one that should appeal to fans of the genre. The extraordinary elements beyond the movie simply add to the intrigue.

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