Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 5th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, December 20th, 1997
Director: Shinji Aoyama
Writer: Shinji Aoyama
Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Taro Suwa, Kazuma Suzuki, Kyôko Toyama
DVD released: October 25th, 2005
Approximate running time: 109 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mono
DVD Release: Artsmagic
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Detective Sosuke and his partner are staking out a cult leader who is the main suspect in the disappearance of several women. The two detectives are called into action when an unknown gunman kills the cult leader. They chase after the gunman and during their purist Detective Sosuke is shots by the gunman who gets away. Detective Sosuke due to the injuries he sustained from the gunshot wound is forced to retire form the force and to make matters worse his wife leaves him. Now retired Sosuke is thrust back into the spotlight when his missing firearm is used in several murders. Sosuke starts to lose his grip on reality as his obsessively searches for his gun and the murderer now in possession of it.
A major influence on Shinji Aoyama’s An Obsession is Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog which Aoyama borrows several key elements from and gives it a modern make over to make it more relevant to the time in which it was made. Another strong influence is the Aum Shinrikyo cults gassing of a Tokyo subway which happened a few years before Aoyama directed An Obsession. Out of the three Shinji Aoyama films that I have seen to date I found An Obsession to be the least engaging as all of the characters felt one dimensional.
The lead character Detective Sosuke from the moment we are introduced to him is obsessed with his job and when he is forced into retirement he finds a new and albeit more destructive obsession. His wife leaves him because he never comes how and stays away for weeks on end. One interesting facet about the Sosuke character that gives the story an interesting twist was how after being shot he had trouble breathing and when he would chase after the filler he would often lag behind out of breathe. This is one of the few character flaws that are exploited to any great effect in the film. The killer he is chasing is completely mad and does things without rhyme or reason. It is hard to feel for unsympathetic characters like these who just move from one moment to the next. The story has an interesting premise that starts off strong and then loses its way as the film crawls to a finish. The films does tend to drag at times and there are several scenes that could have been left out to that only slow the plot down by leaving them in. The strongest asset this film has is Shinji Aoyama’s stylized direction which is some of his most polished and accomplished to date as it is filled with inventive compositions. Shinji Aoyama’s An obsession is a difficult film to categorize as its seamlessly merges several genres into something that is truly unique.
Artsmagic presents An Obsession in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves its original 1.66.:1 aspect ratio. The colors looks nicely saturated and flesh tones look natural. The black levels are good; still there are a few instances in which details look a bit too soft. This is more noticeable during darker scenes or wider shots. The image looking soft this is more likely due to the low budget nature of this film and not the transfer itself. Despite being interlaced the image remains stable through out and there is no distracting motion blurring or ghosting. There are no problems with compression or artifact and there is some minor edge enhancement. Overall the source material used is in good shape as this transfer is free of any print damage.
This DVD offers two audio options a Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital stereo mixes both are in the films original native language Japanese. Overall both audio tracks sound nearly identical with the 5.1 mix sounding slightly fuller. Dialog is clean, crisp and easy to understand. The music and effects sound evenly balanced. Removable English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand.
Extras for this release include eight in depth filmographies and a bio for the director Shinji Aoyama. Other extras include a nineteen minute interview Shinji Aoyama who discusses a wide variety of subjects and like his previous interviews he has plenty of things too say. Some of the info most notably his influences like Jean-Luc Godard has been covered in his previous interviews. Rounding out the extras is an audio commentary with Midnight Eye’s Jasper Sharp. The audio commentary is by far and away the most interesting extra included on this release as Jasper Sharp puts Shinji Aoyama’s cinema into context. Artsmagic have put together another solid DVD that is on par with their other Shinji Aoyama releases Wild Life and E.M. Embalming. An Obsession is dark film about loss that never really establishes its direction and leaves many of the questions it poses unanswered.
For more info on An Obsession visit Artsmagic’s homepage.