UK Release Date: 23rd April 2018
Runtime: 111 minutes
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Starring: Kōji Yakusho, Tsuyoshi Ujiki, Masato Hagiwara, Anna Nakagawa
Synopsis: A detective finds himself baffled by a string of identical murders carried out by different killers, who have no memory of the attacks, though admit to carrying them out.
In Asian cinema, it’s common to see the crime-thriller genre intersect with the notion of horror. Recent Korean movie The Wailing did this to near-perfection, but the prime example of the genre for many is Kiyoshi Kurosawa‘s 1997 movie Cure, which has just been released on Blu-ray in the UK for the first time by Eureka Video as part of its Masters of Cinema series. Okja director Bong Joon-ho considers Cure to be one of the greatest films ever made and it’s certainly an involving, mysterious nightmare of a movie that is unafraid to leave questions unanswered.
Kurosawa gets started by introducing the audience to a strange series of murders taking place in a Japanese city. The victims have been killed in various different ways by different people, but are linked by an X carved into their necks after death and the fact the murderers are always found close to the scene, aware that they committed to the crime but unable to explain why. Detective Takabe – played by Kōji Yakusho, who was on the other side of crime in this year’s The Third Murder – has very little to go on, until the appearance of a young amnesiac (Masato Hagiwara), who might know more than he is telling police.
Cure is a film of tone and of atmosphere. It unfolds at a steady, measured pace that occasionally almost feels lethargic, but Kurosawa has a way of drawing the audience in with the crumbs of narrative he offers at regular intervals. The mystery is involving and dense, with the supernatural thread elegantly woven into the very blunt, human brutality of the murders, which are often carried out in a terrifyingly ordinary deadpan. The score is very minimal and many scenes unfold without any aural accompaniment at all, only amplifying the quiet tension.
Yakusho’s performance is a delight, gradually frazzling and fracturing under the weight of his confusion. He’s unable to puzzle out the crimes and, even when he has convinced himself that Hagiwara’s character is responsible, he can’t get his head around the complex machinations at play. He’s at the centre of a finale that is deliberately ambiguous and brave enough to leave things unexplained, but it’s also a slightly unsatisfying conclusion to a story that always seemed like it was in search of a more complete jigsaw puzzle.
This is a movie that is more successful in tone and feel than it is in constructing a story. It relishes the verbose intensity of its performances and drops the audience into its scuzzy city, similar to the all-consuming bleakness of David Fincher‘s Se7en. There’s a lack of explanation and it occasionally trudges a little too slowly through its world, but Kurosawa has constructed an atmospheric mystery that delivers a consistent string of strange surprises.
There’s a good chat with horror aficionado Kim Newman, as well as new and old contributions from Kurosawa himself and a trailer.
Pop or Poop?
It might not live up to its reputation as one of the greatest movies ever to come out of Japan, but Cure is certainly a compelling journey into a world of murder and mystery, anchored by a pair of very strong performances. Kiyoshi Kurosawa has an assured hand on the directorial tiller and has complete control of his unusual tone, albeit a control that leads him to withhold a few secrets he probably should have divulged.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Cure is available on Blu-ray in the UK now, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment.