Sakebi, which translates from Japanese into English as "the scream," is the original title for Retribution. It describes the most distinctive sound in the film, a piercing wail that haunts this serial killer meets ghost story set on the Toyko waterfront.
In wide release in Japan for barely more than a month, the movie is the latest work by J-horror maestro Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Building a oeuvre of varied psychological thrillers, he is perhaps best known as the director of Kairo, an allegory about isolation, the Internet and suicide that was poorly remade in the U.S. last year as Pulse.
One of the few horror films programmed for this year's Wisconsin Film Festival, Retribution is screening both Friday and Saturday nights at the Orpheum Stage Door theater. Here is the festival description of the film:
A woman is found sprawled face-down in a puddle, her brilliant red dress glowing against the queasy mud. You're the cop investigating the crime scene. Casting around for clues, you find a metal button glinting in the mud. It matches a button you lost from a coat not long ago. Welcome to the nightmare of Yoshioka, a weary cop played by Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance, The Eel), the best actor in Japan today. Evidence mounts that suggests he's the murderer, but stranger things are happening, ghostly things, things with a touch of Lynch. Earthquake tremors add to the tension as Yoshioka trys to settle the mystery: guilt, suspicion, and the hauntings of the past are given Kurosawa's confident flourish in this wonderfully dark and inventive thriller.
Retribution premiered last September at the Venice Film Festival, and has since screened at other fests around the world in advance of its Tokyo premiere in January and a wide theatrical release in Japan at the end of February. The original Japanese teaser trailer for the film follows below.
A two-and-a-half minute clip from Retribution is also available for viewing online. Originally provided for the Toronto After Dark Film Festival in 2006, this particular scene finds Yoshioka growing increasingly aware of his connection to the murder victim.
"One may roll one's eyes at yet another appearance of a lithe, pale young woman whose dark hair obscures her features as she lurks around corners waiting for her unforgivable past to be put into perspective by the haunted, but thankfully Kurosawa is actively utilizing his own somewhat hackneyed material," writes Daniel Kasman in his review of the movie as seen in February.
Kasman continues: "A master at turning pulp genre material into deeply metaphysical pictures of withering social ailment, in a script he wrote himself Kurosawa combines the detective film and the ghost story to fashion a picture about the horror of timelessness, of a society losing connection to one another and gradually, vengefully beset by a forgotten past." Other reviews have also been published by Variety, the Film Fest Journal, Jason Gray, and Twitch, which concludes: "Make no mistake though, the scares in the film are of the long, chilling variety."
More information about Retribution can also be found in its Wikipedia entry. The most detailed and complete compilation of news, reviews and media from the film, though, can be found at Pymmik, a fan site for its star Koji Yakusho.
The ninth annual Wisconsin Film Festival is scheduled for Thursday, Apr. 12 through Sunday, Apr. 15. Tickets are currently on sale.