Adam’s SFIFF56 Report: Day 2 – “Penance” or “Shokuzai”

Penance_02Day two at San Francisco’s International Film Festival and thanks to an on-going battle with my overactive bladder I spent it uncomfortably sitting through an engaging five hours of Kiyoshi Kurosawa‘s latest project, the episodic Penance.  A suggestion if I may to the programming department, how about two 10-minute breaks every two hours instead of one 10-minute break after three hours when you’re going to show these long things? Or maybe you’d be willing to slow down the scrolling of the credits that appear after each of the episodes in order to give everybody a quick 5 minutes to maybe stretch, get some water, check on their loved ones, or, I don’t know, EMPTY THEIR STONEFILLED BLADDER!! I fully recognize my selfish requests from the hard working men and women who put this festival together, but I am in dire need of an outlet to vent my recent frustrations to which my body has been causing me of late, and I figure what’s the point of owning your own blog if you can’t go off topic and vent every now and then?

Okay, now that that’s out of my system, on with a focused review of Penance

Penance_01three-stars15Penance is a made-for-television five episode miniseries that revolves around the death of a young schoolgirl. The first four episodes focus on each of the murdered girl’s friends who were with her the day she died. The last, and fittingly, most revelatory episode, ties up all the loose ends from the previous chapters along with bringing us into the world of the mother, a woman who will not rest until she knows who her child’s murderer is.

Along with some strong elements of mystery, each episode also has its own distinct vibe, although some of them don’t vibe as well as others. Chapters 1, 2 and 4 were the strongest, whereas chapter 3 and 5 felt way too soapy and melodramatic for my liking. And there lies the problem with watching what is essentially a handful of longer-than-short yet shorter-than-long movies back-to-back, especially when each section is tonally different. It jumps from horror to drama to black comedy, to whatever that mess of a last chapter was. I don’t mind switching from one sub-genre to another, but if the tone, storyline or characters don’t hit with you here, too bad, your stuck with them. But, to Kurosawa’s credit I must admit, the rapid pacing, all around well acting, and timely placed score of the entire production made even the lesser chapters feel as if they just flew by.

I think it’s safe to say that while Kurosawa’s Penance may not go down in history as being one of the best miniseries to be directed by an already critically acclaimed director, it won’t be one of the worst either – not even close.

My festival coverage will continue tomorrow, where, provided I have no anatomical technical difficulties, I plan on attending two films, Frantisek Vlácil‘s Marketa Lazarova and Moussa Touré‘s The Pirogue.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival


  1. Filmbalaya’s Guide to SFIFF56 2013 | - April 30, 2013

    […] – “…to Kurosawa’s credit I must admit, the rapid pacing, all around well acting, and timely pla…” – […]

  2. Adam’s SFIFF56 Report: Day 7 – “Animation Shorts”, “Our Homeland”, or “Kazoku no kuni” and “Computer Chess” | - May 5, 2013

    […] the actor who played the sister, Sakura Andô, and that’s because she also had a big part in Penance, another SFIFF movie. I’m going to keep my eye out for her in the future. She’s that […]

  3. Senegalese film on poverty and emigration | Dear Kitty. Some blog - May 27, 2013

    […] Adam’s SFIFF56 Report: Day 2 – “Penance” or “Shokuzai” ( […]

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