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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Cure (Kyua) (1997)

"People like to think a crime has some meaning. But most don't."
- Sakuma (Tsuyoshi Ujiki)

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: January 05, 2004

Stars: Koji Yakusho, Masato Hagiwara, Tsuyoshi Ijiki
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, horror)
Run Time: 01h:41m:13s
Release Date: January 06, 2004
UPC: 037429181225
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+C+C+ B+

DVD Review

In the late 1990s, the films of a number of Japanese directors, amongst them Takashi Miike, Takashi Ishii, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, began making the rounds of film festivals in the U.S. Their films, often genre-hopping combinations of horror, thriller, comedy, and yakuza (gangster) elements, made a big splash not only with genre fans, but also with the critical press. Most have remained available only as non-region 1 imports, but in the last year or so some have begun to appear in region 1 versions, and Cure offers the first look into the work of Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Detective Takabe (Koji Yakusho) is investigating the latest in a series of killings, with the help of psychiatrist Sakuma (Tsuyoshi Ujiki). Although each murder was committed by a different person, they all have two things in common—the killer has carved a large "X" in the neck and upper chest of the victim, and, while conscious of his actions, the killer is horrified by the act and denies having the will to do it. Continuing their investigations, the pair discover a third link—an amnesiac man, so forgetful that he can't remember where he is, or what has been said to him, for more than a few seconds.

While this skeletal plot description may make the film sound like little more than another serial killer movie, it's far more than that. Miyama, (Masato Hagiwara) the amnesiac, has studied hypnotism and its history, and there are suggestions that the murders are the result of post-hypnotic suggestion. But to complicate matters, he also delves into the killers' personalities, asking them "who are you?" and "tell me about yourself," raising questions of identity and self. Occult elements are also introduced, and hints are made that Miyama may be some sort of catalyst to bring about a revival of "soul conjuring," as hypnosis was first called.

Takabe, too, is a complex character. His work is complicated by the fact that he has to care for his wife, who's suffering from a mental disorder, is almost as forgetful as Miyama, and has a bizarre obsession with running the washing machine in their apartment. As he becomes involved with Miyama, his behavior becomes more and more aberrant and violent, to the point that the audience wonders if he is about to snap (when he take his wife to the hospital, the doctor tell him, "You look sicker that she does").

It's not just the characters that are intriguing in Cure. Kurosawa's visual style is also interesting, if inconsistent. Early on in the film, there's a long, lateral tracking shot of a mysterious man on the beach, echoed a few moments later by another lateral tracking shot, in the opposite direction, of Takabe and Sakuma on the roof of a building. But for each example that demonstrates Kurosawa's care and planning, there are as many or more where the style is merely functional, and far less interesting.

This inconsistency, as well as some inconsistencies in the narrative, may be the result of the breakneck pace at which he works. Hampered by low budgets (usually less than a million dollars per film), many Japanese directors are forced to churn out as many as three or four films a year, and Kurosawa's are not the only ones that suffer. For example, in Cure there are scenes that imply psychokinesis, but these are never explained, and there are several short shots that are never integrated with the rest of the film. It's certainly possible that this ambiguity is deliberate, but in Cure, it works against the film, although nowhere to the extent of the jumbled inconsistency of Kurosawa's later Pulse.

Although flawed, the film is interesting and enjoyable, less for the killings and the mystery, than in its investigation of personality and identity. It may not be the best of the new wave of Japanese horror/thriller films (Miike's Audition probably takes that prize), but it's well worth a look.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Colors are faded and brownish in many scenes, and there is a lot of grain in the image, especially in the darker scenes. Dot crawl proves to be an annoyance on vertical lines. All in all this is a lackluster transfer, although it doesn't seriously distract from one's enjoyment of the film.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is passable, but without much range. There's limited stereo separation in a few scenes, but no surround activity. As with the image, it's serviceable, but nothing to write home about.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa
  2. Four-page printed insert with chapter listing and liner notes
Extras Review: The printed insert offers a chapter listing, as well of two pages of notes that provide a brief overview of Kurosawa's career, as well as an analysis of Cure. The nonanamorphic trailer is not particularly pleasant to look at, with its soft focus, compression artifacts, and overzealous edge enhancement.

The included 20-minute interview with Kurosawa is anamorphic, often with the director's comments playing over footage from the film. He proves to be an astute observer of human behavior and relationships, and explains much of what he was trying to accomplish with the film in terms of questions of identity and personality. He also talks about generational changes in Japanese directors, how these changes influence their outlook and thus their films, and his own inspiration in mid-'70s American films. In its short running time, Kurosawa reveals an extraordinary amount of information about himself and his films, and it's fascinating.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Kiyoshi Kurosawa provides an interesting twist on the serial killer movie in Cure. Emphasizing character development and questions of identity, it's an intriguing, if inconsistent film, and the lackluster transfer doesn't seriously detract.

 


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