Inju, the Beast in the Shadow

Barbet Schroeder delivers a delicious genre movie rooted in Japanese crime fiction. The first 10 minutes of are a stand-alone distillation of such books—rich in blood, revenge, and vile villains committing unspeakable acts. After that gruesome treat, we meet smug French crime writer Alex (Benoît Magimel), who fancies himself an expert on the Japanese authors who’ve influenced him. Traveling to Japan with his new bestseller, he tries to meet a reclusive demon author who’s never appeared in public. Naturally the mysterious master resents the usurper, who falls for a lovely tea house girl (Lika Minamoto) with a mysterious scar on her back and a taste for kinky sex. (Conveniently, she speaks French; though some dialogue’s in English, too.) To better understand the sensei’s twisted mix of pleasure and pain, Tamao tells Alex, “you need first-hand experience.” And this being a film by Barbet Schroeder (Single White Female, Reversal of Fortune), that means S&M, which only draws Alex deeper into his obsessions. This is the kind of movie that openly and enjoyably winks at its conventions, where the know-it-all Alex can declare that his rival has “blurred the line between fiction and reality!” Oh really? By the time Alex reconsiders whose story he’s in—well, let’s just say that the pen can be a fatal instrument. (SIFF tickets and info: 324-9996, BRIAN MILLER

Fri., June 12, 4:15 p.m., 2009

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