It would be improper to review Villain (Akunin), the award-winning Japanese drama which is getting a limited UK release this week, without acknowledging recent developments regarding its distributor, Third Window Films. As part of the recent rioting that has flared up across the country, Sony’s main DADC warehouse in Enfield was subject to an arson attack, resulting in many independent labels (both music and film) losing vast numbers of their stock.
Third Window, who have garnered a reputation for releasing esoteric, quirky, or just flat-out brilliant East Asian films, is one of the many businesses that now find themselves in an unfortunate spot. In their particular case, almost 20,000 DVD discs have been written off, and to replenish the whole catalogue would be a great investment.
A setback like this could be fatal. For these companies, the home entertainment market is their main source of income, providing much of the capital used to acquire, exhibit and promote new films. Theatrical releases themselves are more about getting the word out, working as a loss leader that only starts to pay off once the DVDs roll out later on, and interest has had a chance to gather.
This brings us to Villain. While it may not be the strongest, or most audacious entry in the Third Window catalogue, it is nonetheless another fine, if flawed addition. Adapted from the novel by Shuichi Yoshida, the film was a tremendous critical success in Japan, scoring 15 academy award nominations (winning five), and topping the film of the year list in influential film mag Kinema Junpo.
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