I Just Didn't Do It / Soredemo boku wa yattenai
Written and Directed by Masayuki Suo
Japan, 2007, color, 143 minutes
Screening at the 45th New York Film Festival
This morning I caught a Press and Industry Screening of this new film from Masayuki Suo, his first since the 1996 hit Shall We Dance. This time around, he's concerned with the Kafkaesque world of the Japanese legal system, where the presumption of innocence is an ignored formality and proof of innocence is the actual reality, where police coercion, deception and worse are the norm, and where many judges, when not acting as surrogate prosecutors, do all they can to justify a conviction.
Kaneko Tappei (Ryo Kase from Letters From Iwo Jima) is a young man on his way to a job interview who gets mistakenly accused of groping a teenage schoolgirl in a crowded subway car. (This, as the film makes clear, is a crime that often takes place in such circumstances.) He steadfastly refuses to cop a plea, despite the imprecations of the police and his public defender lawyer, even though this would make the matter go away quickly and almost totally painlessly.
Naive about the legal system, he's foolishly sure that his actually being innocent will lead to him being exonerated at trial. Eventually represented by Masayoshi Arakawa (actor Koji Yakusho of Warm Water Under a Red Bridge) and his assistant Riko Sudo (Asaka Seto, who was in the first Death Note film), Tappei endures jail, twelve public hearings, a change of judges, and a final verdict that -- well, I'm not about to spoil it here.
Let's just say that this compelling court room drama moves smoothly through its rather lengthy running time, and that it's well worth sticking around for that final verdict. I''ve had first-hand "experience" with the U.S. justice system, both in Washington, D.C. during the anti-Vietnam War protest years and more recently in the Bronx, where a novelty lighter got me arrested when I appeared to serve as the foreman of a Grand Jury. As unpleasant as those relatively brief experiences were (and they were pretty damn unpleasant), I truly cringe at the thought of being arrested in Japan after seeing this film.
I Just Didn't Do It gets a 3.5 out of 4 star ACF rating (highly recommended).
The film will be screening at the 45th New York Film Festival on Tuesday, October 9th at 6:00 PM and on Wednesday, October 10th at 8:45 PM. For further info or to buy tickets at the Film Society of Lincoln Center website, click here.