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Film / Zero Focus

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Guess which one is the murderer?

Zero Focus (ゼロの焦点) is a 1961 film from Japan, directed by Yoshitaro Nomura.

Teiko Okazaki has just gotten married to Kenichi Uhara, a businessman who has to travel frequently. Just a week after their wedding, he goes off on what is supposed to be a routine trip—but he never returns. No one knowns anything, and the police come up empty. One day at home, Teiko stumbles across two photographs in a book of her husband's that she can't account for. Determined to find out the truth, she looks into her husband's disappearance and discovers that he had a secret, second life that he hid from her. Among the characters she meets are Mr. Murota the businessman, who dealt with Kenichi, and Murota's pretty wife Sachiko. Teiko has a brief encounter with a receptionist named Hisako at Murota's company, an encounter that proves to be important. Teiko eventually uncovers a tangled web of dark secrets that date back to the American occupation of Japan after World War II.

Zero Focus is a Japanese take on Film Noir that also owes an obvious debt to the films of Alfred Hitchcock.


  • Chiaroscuro: A lot of moody shadows in a poorly-lit entryway when Sotaro's wife receives the telegram notifying her of his death.
  • Dark Secret: Sachiko, now the respected wife of a prosperous businessman, was once a prostitute who serviced American soldiers after the war. She kills two people, Kenichi and his brother Sotaro, to keep this secret.
  • Dies Wide Open: Hisako, after drinking from the cyanide-laced liquor bottle that Sachiko still had in her car. Leads to a rather unsettling shot in which Sachiko gets out of the car and freaks out while Hisako's corpse looks on from the back seat.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sachiko drives her car off a cliff after Teiko confronts her.
  • Evil Laugh: The formerly demure Sachiko lets loose with one heck of an evil cackle after Teiko tells her that she figured out Sachiko is the murderer.
  • Femme Fatale: Sachiko, who used her sexuality to seduce Mr. Murota at some point in the backstory, and is quite willing to kill in order to hide her secrets.
  • Film Noir: Secrets, double lives, murders, a Femme Fatale. Yep.
  • Flashback: Many are used to explain details of the plot, including a flashback-within-a-flashback when Sachiko remembers Hisako remembering her relationship with Kenichi.
  • Hong Kong Dub: One scene has Hisako the receptionist speaking in English with a white person, used to establish that she picked up the language when hooking for GIs after the war. The English dialogue is accomplished with some atrociously bad dubbing.
  • Inner Monologue: As well as straight narration, Teiko sometimes narrates her thoughts during a scene.
  • Kubrick Stare: Sachiko indulges in one of these as she tells Hisako that her common-law husband was throwing her over for another wife.
  • Narrator: Teiko narrates the story in voice-over.
  • Never Suicide: The cops think Kenichi, who was involved with Teiko and Hisako at the same time, killed himself. Then they think that Hisako killed herself after she killed his brother Sotaro. Turns out that Kenichi was only faking his suicide when Sachiko decided to make it real by pushing him off the cliff, and Hisako died accidentally after taking a swig from the cyanide-laced bottle Sachiko used to kill Sotaro.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The title Zero Focus has pretty much nothing to do with anything that happens in the movie.
  • Secret Other Family: It turns out that Kenichi had a "common-law" wife in Hisako at the time he was marrying Teiko. He decides to fake a suicide in order to get out of his relationship with Hisako. Sachiko takes this opportunity to murder him so he can't reveal the secret of her sordid past.
  • Time Skip: From December to summer and then to the next winter, before Teiko figures out what happened and confronts the Muratas.
  • Trophy Wife: Teiko is quick to notice that Sachiko Murota is both gorgeous and much younger than her rich, old husband.
  • Wipe: Used many times for scene transitions. Typical for Japanese films of the era.