Red Handkerchief: ”Accident? You don’t feel guilty, do you? I don’t forgive you. Accident or not, my father will never come back. It’s your fault.”

Year: 1964
Directed by Toshio Masuda
Produced by
Written by Gan Yamazaki, Toshio Masuda and Ei Ogawa
Cast: Yûjirô Ishihara, Ruriko Asaoka, Hideaki Nitani, Nobuo Kaneko, Tamio Kawaji, and Shinsuke Ashida

A detective is forced into exile after he is forced to kill a suspect in order to save his partner. When he returns from exile, he discovers that same partner is now rich and has married the woman he loved.

Yujiro Ishihara, a Japanese heartthrob of the 50s and 60s has once again starred in a great film noir. The post-war era served as the proving grounds for creating a new brand of Japanese gritty film noirs. Justice is always a concern in film noir and Red Handkerchief tackles justice head on with an utmost poignancy. Red Handkerchief’s issue of justice is tied up with its melodrama which turns the abstract ideal into an intimate concern.

After a dramatic and tragic prologue, a dreary but intense nostalgic undertone sets in. Even colorless, Red Handkerchief would have been more than enough to be visually pleasing and an easy way to convey the tonal call for dreariness . Yet, the choice to go color doesn’t undermine the somber take that film noir innately have. The added color keeps the narrative from relying on drab lighting and challenges the narrative to convey somberness through different means. Red Handkerchief’s cinematography is quite the powerful moodsetter because of its strikingly good use of the right locales and weather for the proper mood the story is supposed to convey.

The amazing ambience is matched by the guilt and regret driven characters. Everyone has a chip on their shoulders. Makimi, and Reiko share the same character flaws but Ishizuka is the exception. This deviation in Ishizuka is what drives the main conflict. The central mystery easily could deteriorated into a muddled mess by including more characters and more subplots in the hopes of adding more intrigue. The close-knit nature of the mystery not only makes it a more believable conspiracy, but also punctuates the narrative with an intense personally driven drama. The final entanglement brings everything full circle in a satisfying light.

Red Handkerchief is a captivating drama that evokes heartfelt sentimentality while being atmospheric to the bone. It echoes with powerful strings of emotions such as regret,deception, guilt or love amidst its tale of justice gone awry.

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