Inju: The Beast in the Shadow

It is not easy to review a truly horrendous film. For one thing, I know they exist out there but I don’t see enough of them to have determined a standard for the low point. For another, a corollary, there’s generally some redeeming feature in the worse films. Not in Barbet Schroeder’s Inju, however.

It is just plain awful, an absurd thriller/horror story (the slash is particularly appropriate here) that sends a French writer of pulp fiction (Benoît Magimel) to Japan where awaits him the reclusive, highly competitive and fierce master of the genre. French critics have been kind to this film.

Schroeder is a respected director and also one of the founders of the Films du Losange that produced a string of important New Wave films. Jean Eustache’s La maman et la putain (1973), Jacques Rivette’s Céline et Julie vont en bateau (1974), a number of Eric Rohmer films, are among its achievements. So nobody dared rap Schroeder’s fingers for Inju, despite the fact that the film simply doesn’t work. The script is dead on arrival, the glimpse into the world of geishas far less compelling than in, say, Memoirs of a Geisha, and forget about acting.

The woman, Lika Minamoto, has a model’s gloss and vacuousness and you have to wonder how Benoît Magimel—whose only possible claim to posterity is the deepest chin cleft since Kirk Douglas—has achieved star status. By the way, just out this week, also with Benoît Magimel, The Possibility of an Island, which cult writer Michel Houellebecq has directed, based on his novel of the same name. Pretty bad reviews so far. So there is justice after all.

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