Suo tackles Japan's legal tangles


HONG KONG - “Shall We Dance?” was a Japanese story the rest of the world could relate to. Richard Gere starred in the Hollywood remake. But director Masayuki Suo’s latest
project does not cross borders or cultures with such ease.

Promoted at the Hong Kong Filmart by Pony Canyon Inc., there were initially high hopes that “I Just Didn’t Do It” might be snapped up for foreign distribution, but the tale is a far bleaker view of Japanese society, for which Sou makes no apologies.

The story revolves around a young man, played by Ryo Kase, who is on his way to a job interview on a crowded train when he is wrongly accused by a schoolgirl of molesting her.

“All my movies are made from a Japanese perspective and I am never sure how they are viewed all over the world. My aim is show just how bad the Japanese criminal justice system is,” Sou said. “I would like to know how other people regard the film because I want foreigners to feel the same rage that I do about Japan’s legal system."

The film's protagonist protests his innocence as a police officer tries to coerce him into signing a confession with the promise of immediate release after paying compensation. The young man stands his ground, is arrested and gets ever more tangled up in legal confusion.

And Suo is quick to point out that the story is far from fictional.

“It is based on numerous men’s stories,” he said. “These incidents happen a lot in Japan. There was another case of a man being falsely accused only yesterday.”

Groping on Japan’s notoriously congested trains is a genuine problem, but it has spawned a trend among some young women looking for a payout from a commuter who would rather pay a fine than deal with the legal system.

“I first started to focus on this topic six years ago and I feel so strongly about it that if I had known of the problem when I was making ‘Shall We Dance?’, I am not sure if I would have even finished that movie,” he said.