ContactSales: Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Tokyo ([email protected])
Theatrical release: Japan, 31 May 2014.
Presented by All-Round Appraiser Q Film Partners (Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Kadokawa, Toho, Twins Japan) (JP). Produced by Twins Japan (JP). Executive producer: Hamana Kazuya. Producers: Shimoda Atsuyuki, Tsujimoto Tamako.
Script: Uda Manabu. Novel: Matsuoka Keisuke (2011). Photography: Kawazu Taro. Editing: Kato Hitomi. Music: Habuka Yuri, Omama Takashi. Music direction: Shida Hirohide. Art direction: Saito Iwao. Costume design: Miyamoto Misae. Sound: Yokono Kazushiko. Visual effects: Tsujino Minami. Paintings: Hanawa Masao.
Cast: Ayase Haruka (Rindo Rika), Matsuzaka Tori (Ogasawara Yuto, the reporter), Hatsune Eriko (Ryusenji Misa), Pierre Deladonchamps (Richard Bret), Hashimoto Jun (Ogino Koyo), Murasugi Seminosuke (Yamada Satoshi), Kojima Kazuya (Kiyan Yuzen), Tsunogae Kazue (Korai Kaori), Murakami Hiroaki (Asahina Naoyuki), Manuel Blanc (Odilou Boyer).
All-Round Appraiser Q: The Eyes of Mona Lisa 万能鑑定士Ｑ モナ・リザの瞳
Contemporary crime mystery
2014, colour, 2.35:1, 119 mins
Directed by Sato Shinsuke (佐藤信介)
By Derek Elley
Thu, 05 June 2014, 09:30 AM (HKT)
Well-packaged mystery-thriller in which the action is more mental than physical. Asian events.
Japan, the present day. Rindo Rika (Ayase Haruka) is a young polymath who, under the name All-Round Appraiser Q, offers a service valuing any kind of artefact. One client asks her to come along to a Turkish cuisine tasting and appraise it; during the event, Rika deduces that the cooking noises are in fact "auditory masking" for a jewel robbery taking place in an upstairs gallery. The grateful gallery owner, Asahina Naoyuki (Murakami Hiroaki), who works for the Louvre Museum, invites her to take part in a contest of international appraisers being held by the museum in Paris the following week; the winner will become a temporary curator for an exhibition featuring the Mona Lisa to be held in Japan, for the first time in 40 years. Rika accepts and is followed to Paris by a young reporter, Ogasawara Yuto (Matsuzaka Tori). Rika passes the opening test, and qualifies along with another Japanese woman, Ryusenji Misa (Hatsune Eriko), for further training under Louvre curator Richard Bret (Pierre Deladonchamps) in Karuizawa, north of Tokyo. Originally from Okinawa, Rika was not very bright at school but developed incredible memory skills, eventually going into business for herself; Misa is the daughter of an art gallery owner whose business collapsed. After weeks of tuition, their final test is to spot the real Mona Lisa from 12 identical paintings. Rika collapses during the test and suffers hallucinations; later Yuto finds she was disqualified and has closed her business. Meanwhile, a dastardly plan is afoot as the Mona Lisa arrives in Japan.
The kind of wild idea that only the Japanese could pull off, All-Round Appraiser Q: The Eyes of Mona Lisa 万能鑑定士Ｑ モナ・リザの瞳 is a deductive mystery-thriller in which almost all the action is of the mental rather than the physical kind, centring on a young woman of incredible memory skills who becomes involved in the theft of the Mona Lisa during an exhibition in Tokyo. Though it has the feel of having been adapted from a manga, with its polymath heroine, geeky reporter sidekick and array of wacky villains, it's actually from a novel, All-Round Appraiser Q: Case IX (万能鑑定士Qの事件簿 IX, 2011), in a popular series by MATSUOKA Keisuke 松岡圭祐, whose Hypnosis 催眠 (1999) was made into an acceptable psycho-horror by OCHIAI Masayuki 落合正幸 more than a decade ago.
The biggest surprise is that the director is SATO Shinsuke 佐藤信介 who, though working with the same d.p. as on his previous Gantz ＧＡＮＴＺ (2010) and Library Wars 図書館戦争 (2013), provides a much richer and more atmospheric frame for the story as it twists and turns from one brain-teaser to another. As the first Japanese movie to have access to the Louvre Museum, the film makes the most of the Paris location, and the story itself is drenched in the kind of Euro-cultural background that's "exotic" for an Asian (and especially Japanese) audience. More to the point is the way in which the plot, which is largely set in Japan, gets inside the mind of its title character, not only following her Sherlock Holmes-like deductions as she sorts out fakes from the genuine article but also carrying the audience along on her journey of solving a bigger crime.
After the first hour, which functions merely as a curtain-raiser, the screenplay by TV drama writer UDA Manabu 宇田学 leads the viewer from one false trail to another, creating suspense from the least suspenseful material — art appraising. With little physical action (and not especially good when it comes), plus not even a romance between the two leads, the movie is carried by the central idea, the widescreen visuals by d.p. KAWAZU Taro 河津太郎 (especially those involving the appraisal tests) and the many-mooded score by composers HABUKA Yuri 羽深由理 and OMAMA Takashi 大間々昂, which gives the film emotion and scope, as well as dramatic shape. It's all unlikely nonsense, of course, but the packaging wins the day.
Actress-singer AYASE Haruka 綾瀬はるか, who's played everything from an android (Cyborg She 僕の彼女はサイボーグ (2008)) to a swordswoman (Ichi ＩＣＨＩ (2008)), isn't especially convincing as a super-logical polymath who can learn French in a couple of days; but she has better material here to work with than in her previous movie (KUROSAWA Kiyoshi 黒沢清's Real リアル～完全なる首長竜の日～ (2013)), and is better than just okay. In sheer screen presence, however, she's often outclassed by the older HATSUNE Eriko 初音映莉子 (Being Mitsuko ミツコ感覚 (2011)), 32, as a rival appraiser-cum-vamp. With MATSUZAKA Tori 松坂桃李 (Gatchaman ガッチャマン (2013)) stuck in a weedy role as a geeky journalist, most of the male side is in the hands of French actor Pierre DELADONCHAMPS — from Alain GUIRAUDIE's gay murder drama Stranger by the Lake L'inconnu du lac (2013) — who gives a surprisingly strong performance, for a foreigner in a Japanese movie, as a head Louvre curator in charge of the exhibition.
For foreign markets, a much better title would be just The Eyes of the Mona Lisa.