The concept of journalism and its role in the modern, social media era has been an issue addressed quite frequently, in films like “The Journalist” , “The Exclusive: Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” and even this year’s “Reiwa Uprising“. Based on Masato Harada’s 1985 feature, “Out of Focus, Scoop!”, Hitoshi One’s film throws its two cents about the concept through a rather entertaining approach that benefits the film the most.
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Shizuka Miyakonojo is a 40-something paparazzi photographer, who is very skilled with camera, but also an irreparable gambler that has amassed a huge debt, which actually forces him to continue hunting celebrities for the latest scoop to sell to Sadako Yokogawa, chief editor of a tabloid magazine. Yokogawa seems to be more than an associate however, and somewhere amidst the rather peculiar relationship she has with Shizuka, she “forces” him to take Nobi Namekawa, a rookie reporter, as his apprentice. However, Shizuka is also reckless, has an attitude towards woman that continuously borders (and occasionally surpasses the line) on sexual harassment, his only friend is Baba, a drug addict to whom he owes a huge debt, and soon Shizuka finds herself facing all the above head on. However, when she overcomes the initial shock, she realizes that she also loves this line of work and particularly the success of getting a scoop, and also that Shizuka is not the just the shameless guy he makes himself to be. Reality, though, soon comes crashing on all their heads.
Hitoshi One directs a film that moves in very mainstream paths. For starters, the romance that soon blooms between the two protagonists is as clichéd as possible. The same applies to the way Nobi changes through her interactions with Shizuka, which are mostly depicted by her change in attire, as the hip-hop style with the fluorescent painted nails and the cap soon becomes pair of jeans and a military-style jacket. Lastly, the finale is probably a bit too melodramatic, particularly because it is prolonged, although One keeps from becoming completely tear-jerking. However, these are the easiest choices One takes, since the rest of the movie elements are quite engaging.
On the other hand, the concept of the reporter and particularly the paparazzi is shown in all its despicable glory, with the people who deal with it destroying other people’s lives for money and larger circulation. At the same time, however, the story seems to give two “excuses” to these people: the fact that celebrity scandals are what the majority of the audience constantly seeks for, and the general concept of “the one who does it is always more guilty than the one who reports it”.
Furthermore, the writing and the analysis of the characters is quite interesting, and not only for the protagonists. Shizuka may appear crude and money-thirsty, but he is also loyal to the people around him and is eventually revealed as a mentor for a number of other characters, including Sadako, whose subtly portrayed relationship with him is one of the best assets of the narrative, and Baba, another member of the team who seems to be the one with the least compromised conscience. At the same time, these relationships also present the senpai concept, mainly through the fact that many of his former colleagues do not think much of Shizuka, but feel obligated to follow his orders. The role benefits the most by Masaharu Fukuyama’s acting, who depicts the “fallen rock-star” and the man who appears crude but is filled with sentiment in reality, in the best fashion. Nobi’s part could easily become a plain cliché, just highlighting the fact that Fumi Nikaido looks good no matter what she wears, but she actually gives a rather interesting performance, particularly in the way she changes through her interactions with Shizuka and her defenses eventually crumble. Lily Franky is once more great in the role of Baba, a complete loser who seems to live just through his relationship with Shizuka.
Although the martial arts-part is quite far-fetched, his role is the catalyst that gives the film its great finale, while his chemistry with Masaharu is one of the most entertaining parts of the narrative.
The concept of journalistic ethics is also one of the most interesting aspects of the story, with the way it is presented through the triptych of Baba, who wants to retain as much integrity as possible, Sadako, who understands how Baba feels and thinks but is set on doing what needs to be done, and Shizuka, who just cares for the money (at least on surface) works exceptionally well for the movie, through a number of scenes of tension. Yo Yoshida as Sadako and Kenichi Takito as Baba also portray their characters quite convincingly, stressing the aforementioned aspect with their performances. The way the purpose and the practices of journalism have declined is also presented, although briefly and mostly through a sense of nostalgia.
The combination of Gen Kobayashi’s cinematography, Yasuyuki Ohzeki’s editing and Horoshi Kawanabe’s music follows the rules of the mainstream, with a number of images that aim at impression, the fast pace, and the occasionally music video aesthetics. However, Kobayashi presents a number of captivating images of nighttime Tokyo, while the way he depicts Shizuka’s photographic tactics are quite engaging.
“Scoop” does entail a few of the faults usually associated with mainstream cinema, but its main subject, the overall story, the direction and the acting definitely make it stand out.