Cure [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (13th May 2018).
The Film

Award of the Japanese Academy (Best Supporting Actor): Masato Hagiwara (nominated) - Awards of the Japanese Academy, 1998
Japanese Professional Movie Award (Best Film): Kiyoshi Kurosawa (winner), (Best Supporting Actor): Masato Hagiwara (winner) - Japanese Professional Movie Awards, 1998
Best Actor Award: Kji Yakusho (winner) and Tokyo Grand Prix: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (nominated) - Tokyo International Film Festival, 1997
Festival Prize (Best Film): Cure (winner), (Best Supporting Actor): Ren sugi (winner), and (Best Director): Kiyoshi Kurosawa (winner) - Yokohama Film Festival, 1999

A businessman bludgeons a prostitute to death and can offer no reason for the crime to investigating detective Takabe (Shall We Dance?'s Kji Yakusho). While police psychologist Sakuma (Last Quarters Tsuyoshi Ujiki) assures him that not all crimes have motivations, this is the third such crime in two months, the commonality being the postmortem severing of the carotid artery with an incision resembling a large X. Not soon after, a schoolteacher murders his wife with a similar lack of motive, a police officer suddenly murders his partner, and a female doctor murders a stranger in a restroom and pulls the skin off of his face from the X incision point. After inadvertently triggering a response from the police officer while examining him with a penlight, Takabe believes that the killers were hypnotized; however, his hypothesis rejected by Sakuma who tells him that a subject of hypnosis cannot be made to overturn their basic moral sense. Takabe finally has a lead when he discovers that the police officer had brought an amnesia patient to see the doctor. The amnesiac (Caf Lumire's Masato Hagiwara) frustrates Takabe's attempts at interrogation by asking questions about him which prompt violent responses. Finding the suspect's residence based on a peculiar burn on his body, Takabe discovers that the man is Kunio Mamiya, a former psychology student who was studying hypnosis' earlier incarnation as mesmerism. Takabe begins to get a sense of how Mamiya gets into the heads of his victims when he hallucinates the suicide of his mentally-ill wife Fumie (Godzilla vs King Ghidorah's Anna Nakagawa), but what puzzles Sakuma is Mamiya's motive for doing so since he genuinely does appear to have amnesia. Since he does not fit the diagnosis of a megalomaniac, Sakuma who has also started to hallucinate begins to believe that Mamiya might be "a missionary sent to propagate" a ceremony that dates back to a Meiji era experiment of "soul conjuring" involving a murderess (a fragment of which survives as an archival filmstrip).

Although not director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's first "big" film or even his first horror film even if you take into account his disowned Sweet Home Cure did mark a turning point in his career away from his Pink film beginnings and V-cinema yakuza flicks with its ability to comfortably merge aspects of the arthouse and the mainstream while also anticipating the J-horror boom just a year away with Ringu. The story riffs on the serial-killer-as-figurative-devil likes of Silence of the Lambs and the gritty, urban dread approach of Se7en but makes pointed observations about the issue of identity and the separation of the public and the personal as not halves of a fully formed concept of self but something more complex and chaotic. While Mamiya is not able to order his victims to kill, he is able to ferret out their festering resentments as weaknesses and manipulate them into acting upon them in a murderous fashion. The game between detective and killer (or at least inciter) is less cat and mouse than a sizing up of willpower, leading the viewer to wonder if Takabe's explosive tirade about his inability to show emotion and the burden of his wife's illness is playing into Mamiya's plans or if his venting (as either spontaneous expression or a performance) allows him to withstand further manipulation. The abrupt resolution gives way to an ambiguous but unnerving final sequence, and the overall approach sets the style and tone for Kurosawa's subsequent horror mood-pieces through to Loft as well as his recent return to the genre with Creepy.

Video

Released stateside to DVD by Home Vision in an anamorphic transfer that was good for the time, Cure comes to 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray looking not only sharper but with more accurate whites, black, and still drab colors stripped of the haze and subtle yellowish tinge of the DVD transfer.

Audio

Audio options include the original stereo mix in uncompressed LPCM 2.0 and a conservate DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 rechanneling that spreadsout the sprarse music and ambient effects of a largely front-oriented and centralized mix. Optional English subtitles are provided for the dialogue and major credits in the end title sequence.

Extras

Carried over from the US DVD release is an "Ordinary Demons" (19:34), an archival interview with Kurosawa who touches upon the question of identity, the importance of location and art direction in low budget V-cinema films, his admiration for actor Kji Yakusho, as well as his own interpreation of the film's title. He also provides some shooting anecdotes which appear to form one of the major sources of research for the new video interview with critic & author Kim Newman (14:13) who repeats some of the stories about the shoot amidst a greater appreciation of the director who he surmises is lesser known because he is not as flamboyant as Takashi Miike or Shin'ya Tsukamoto, noting Kurosawa's admiration of Hollywood's pre-blockbuster New American Cinema - including particularly parallels with director Larry Cohen (whose God Told Me To Newman likens to a sci-fi version of the Cure), and describing his aeshetic as a sort of "creepy Ozu." Kurosaw appears in a new interview titled "Kiyoshi Kurosawa on Cure" (16:49) in which he discusses the difficulty of getting into directing while working as an assistant director, starting with Pink films and then getting into V-cinema yakuza films where he started working regularly with Kji Yakusho who recommended that he try to work on the film ideas he wanted within the constraints of the genre, leading to the less formulaic Serpent's Path before Cure. He also discusses his love for the horror genre and its lack of recognition in the eighties and nineties before Ringu. The theatrical trailer (1:37) is also included. Not provided for review was the 24-page collector's booklet featuring an essay by Tom Mes who has written a number of books on Japanese genre cinema.

Overall

 


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