Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Maggie 2010: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Part I

#113. Cure

If the phrase "Cerulean blue is like a gentle breeze" is familiar to you, you already understand the concept behind Cure, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's elegant 1997 psychological thriller about a series of murders carried out by a gamut of strangers on their loved ones--and one man's power of suggestion behind it all. The murders all follow the same gruesome slash pattern about the neck and chest, but their culprits, all caught near the scene, cannot recall why they've done what they've done. Detective Kenichi Takabe (Koji Yakusho) and psychologist Makoto Sakuma (Tsuyoshi Ujiki) join together to find the link between these seemingly unrelated attacks, hitting at last upon the story of an unnamed drifter who has passed into and out of all their lives.

One strength of this film, which first saw Kurosawa's fame as a director spread to mainstream North America in 2001, lies in how little the thrill of the hunt, a classic element in many criminal horrors, plays into Cure's resolution: rather, the Detective finds his man, an apparent amnesiac who invariably turns interrogation back onto the interrogator, halfway through the film. "Who are you?" the enigmatic hypnotist keeps asking, attempting the same techniques on the Detective that have turned so many other, mild-mannered men against their partners in the past.

From this point on a different kind of hunt is at play, as the supposed amnesiac hints at a clear philosophy behind his actions, a conviction that no man can be made to do what he does not already wish to, at least somewhere deep inside. The stakes of such a statement are made even higher by the Detective's personal circumstances, his wife struggling with a mental illness that requires all his off-hours attention. Of all the victims that have preceded him, with loving, doting wives and partners all their own, surely this "burden" above all others should make the Detective easy prey for the drifter's power of suggestion.

And so an expertly drawn battle of wills, oriented around a few serious questions of personal culpability and the power of suggestion, ensues. But while the conclusion might seem obvious, the path Kurosawa takes to get us there most definitely is not. This was my starting point to Kurosawa's work, and I most certainly do not regret entering his world here.

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