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Premieres & Events

He Did Do It: Suo Premieres Latest at Japan Society

By Christopher Campbell

New York commuters sure have it good. And if they don’t think so, they should check out the overcrowded subways of Japan, or at least see the new film from Masayuki Suo. Titled I Just Didn’t Do It, the film deals with the nation’s epidemic problem of mass-transit groping, a creepy sex crime that Suo uses as context for an examination of the faulty Japanese judicial system.

Filmmaker Masayuki Suo (R) with actress Asaka Seto at Wednesday's international premiere of I Just Didn't Do It (Photos: Christopher Campbell)

The director has taken over a decade to deliver a follow-up to his hugely successful Shall We Dance? (American moviegoers are generally more familiar with the Hollywood remake starring J.Lo), and so he was met with great anticipation Wednesday night at Japan Society, where the new film had its international premiere. But his fans were immediately warned by the Society's artistic director Yoko Shioya, who addressed the fact that unlike Suo’s previous films, I Just Didn’t Do It is not a comedy.

In his own introduction to the film, Suo elaborated on the change. “What you’ll see today is not a joke,” he said through a translator. “This is the actual way a Japanese criminal court proceeds and how a trial is carried out. Much of the reason that this is not a comedy is that it reflects my anger toward the results of these cases.”

However, despite the anger and the seriousness, Suo was able to provide some laughs for his audience. Before setting up the film, he stated that he would be following in the footsteps of new Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka by speaking exclusively in his native language. Later, following a long explanation of the everyday occurrence of train groping and the mishandling of cases involving this crime, he announced that the film is, “two hours and 23 minutes in duration, but it should feel about 90 minutes long.” The not-so-funny truth is that the film’s complete and detailed presentation of its trial is a little too comprehensive and drawn-out, causing the film to actually feel longer than its running-time -- not that this is necessarily a problem, because the case does remain intriguing the whole way through.

Suo was joined on stage by one of the stars of I Just Didn’t Do It, actress Asaka Seto. “I had mixed feelings about [the script],” she admitted. “But as I read it, I really saw the issues that are facing us, and it was very real to me. I was very honored to be a part of director Suo’s film.”

"What you’ll see today is not a joke": Suo introducing I Just Didn't Do It

On the surface, the issues dealt with in I Just Didn’t Do It seem pretty much Japan-specific, and while discussing the film at the reception following the screening, Suo told The Reeler of his primary intentions. “Most Japanese people don’t know that this how a criminal procedure takes place in a Japanese court,” he said. “I didn’t know any of this either. So, the importance is, I think, that this will reveal to people what Japanese trial procedures are like. The target of this movie is the Japanese criminal trial system.”

Of course, parallels are easily drawn to other unjust legal systems around the globe, and Suo agreed that the film could have some international appeal. “This court story was developed out of a very Japanese system and a very Japanese culture and its background,” he said. “However, everywhere in the world, people are judging other people. And so, in that sense, for people around the world, it can be a movie that makes people think, ‘How is it that we judge others, or how is it people should judge people?’ ”

For the time being, though, only moviegoers in Japan will get to ponder those questions. I Just Didn’t Do It opens there January 20; it does not yet have American distribution.

Posted at January 11, 2007 7:46 AM

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