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  Kotoko Broken Mind
Year: 2011
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Stars: Cocco, Shinya Tsukamoto, Yûko Nakamura, Hiromi Kuronuma, Nami Inoue, Emiko Wagatsuma, Shinta Yamamoto, Kyômi Yamamoto, Rika Nakamura, Hayato Takuma, Hiroshi Matayoshi, Makoto Takakusa, Masao Hiramatsu, Masaharu Seki, Honoka Chiba, Ken Koide, Kôji Wakuta
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kotoko (Cocco) is a single mother with problems. She lives alone with her infant son, who is her pride and joy, but she cannot interact normally with other people thanks to her mental health issues. Compared to the way most see the world, her view is extremely distorted as she has trouble working out what in her perception is a manifestation of her illness and what is actually happening, leaving her clinging on to her baby as the sole source of comfort in her confused existence. One element of this is that she sees doubles of many she encounters, and cannot discern which is the real person: this can have her diving out of the way of the wrong bicycle, or worse, believing herself to be the victim of an unprovoked attack...

Kotoko was a very personal film for J-pop singer Cocco, here making her debut in a lead role as requested by her director and co-star Shinya Tsukamoto, who wrote the script with her to reflect her own mental illness. You would hope she didn't suffer as badly into practical catatonia as her character does here, but she was on record as saying she did self-harm as the troubled Kotoko did, though again you would be concerned she didn't go far as the bloody mess her character becomes around the halfway mark. But that came with the territory of films that depict psychosis or depression from the sole perspective of the patient, in that you could not entirely trust what you were watching.

That said, you pretty much got the idea that while from some angles this could be a horror movie, we were always aware this was the deterioration of a mind we were dealing with and therefore could not wholly accept what Kotoko was experiencing, in spite of watching it unfold through her eyes. If there was fear in this, if anything it was the baby we were worried about as she plainly could not cope with the boy, breaking down in his presence though still doting over him as much as she can. Yet when she takes him onto the roof of the block their apartment is in and becomes convinced she has half-deliberately, half-accidentally dropped him over the side, then finds there is no body on the ground, and further to that rushes back into her flat to discover the baby asleep, you can tell the child needs a more stable life.

To say the least, and sure enough he is whisked away after Kotoko has a meltdown preparing dinner - it should be pointed out the baby does a lot of crying, and whether it was just hungry or whether it was induced to bawl, if you're sensitive to the use of small children in movies, especially ones called upon to act upset when you wonder how much is actual acting, then you would be advised to steer clear of this film. Not that the baby is in every scene, and there is an interlude when Kotoko goes to visit him at her sister's place which is almost idyllic, with the kid happily laughing and enjoying Kotoko's presence. However, it doesn't last as she has to return home eventually, whereupon she begins to slide back into her former insanity.

And does so alarmingly quickly, though there appears to be a ray of light when a neighbour, Mr Tanaka (played by Tsukamoto himself), tries to assist her and prevent any further damage. However, he might not be real either, or if he is he's not introducing himself into her life the way she believes. Cocco got to demonstrate her singing techniques throughout as it's the only solace her character can take, an escape into something she does well which seems to settle her mind for a while, yet the time period this was placed in was similarly unsettling as after a while you twig her illness has been plaguing her for years, and only notice when her baby is clearly growing up whenever she's allowed to see him, indeed he was played by Cocco's actual teenage son in the latter scenes. This was made at the chaotic point of the big Japanese earthquake, which may have been a coincidence but channelled into the mental upheaval the population were going through, making for metaphorical resonance, but more than that Kotoko was a hard to watch insight into the sad state of its heroine, and Cocco too.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Shinya Tsukamoto  (1960 - )

Japanese writer/director and actor whose controversial, stylised films have bought him considerable notoriety in the West. His 1988 sci-fi body-horror debut Tetsuo: The Iron Man was a hit at international film festivals, and he followed it with the colour sequel/remake, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer. Other films include the supernatural yarn Hiruko the Goblin, boxing fetish tale Tokyo Fist, the urban drama Bullet Ballet, erotic thriller A Snake of June and mental breakdown drama Kotoko.

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