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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 12.5%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 25%
Total Crap: 8.33%

2 reviews, 12 user ratings

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by Greg Muskewitz

"The stronger your investment, the stronger your enjoyment."
5 stars

As if I don’t have enough older films to catch up on, I have a whole new — or should I say old — filmography to add to the shopping cart. “Cure” introduced me to the fascinating, compellingly bizarre landscape of Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. To my knowledge, “Cure” is his first film to get a regular American theatrical release. Notwithstanding his short films, prior to “Cure” (technically a 1997 film), he had seven films under his belt, and has made six more since. I can’t wait to get started on the search for those!

An enigmatic head-scratcher, “Cure” is a highly concentrated atmospheric and frightening murder/police mystery. Almost a noir of sorts. It certainly is not a case you would want to accept on your virgin investigation; a full plate hardly measures up to the inundated unenviable position that even the pro detective (Koji Yakusho) faces in his work and personal life. His wife seems to be suffering from a memory disorder. She is constantly forgetting to do things and is continually finding herself lost while trying to come home. Before we begin learning much more of that, we witness a gory murder where a man kills a prostitute with a lead pipe he broke off while walking in a tunnelway. The detective shows up at the scene and assesses that the murder is related to a recent string where all of the victims have an ‘X’ etched into their chests. The culprit is found nearby and doesn’t deny the act, but cannot remember any motive or reason why. A wanderer passes by on the shores where an admirer looks on at the waves. The wanderer doesn’t know where he is and asks several times, but it doesn’t seem to register mentally or stick with him. The man takes the wanderer home in hopes of helping him. The next day the good-Samaritan kills his wife and engraves her with the ‘X.’ The murderous act follows all of the prerequisites of the others leaving the detective baffled.

The details and specifics hitherto have all been very intricate and meticulously placed by Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) who does double-duty as writer and director. The continued progression of “Cure” is nimbly pari passu with the rest, but yet I don’t want to trivially sketch everything else down to a generalization. Even what I have skimmed the surface of doesn’t do the film justice. But to toss out some of which will show up on your forecast, we spend plenty more time with the wanderer, not to mention the intensification of domestic and job-related stress of the detective, but we’re accompanied by his psychiatrist friend, the introduction of the work of Franz Mesmer (“Mesmer of Paris” reads a notepad) and more creepy murders and questions.

The murderers, which are closer to victims themselves, are hypnotized so deeply that the implementation of the hypnosis is nearly impossible to trace. Even though the crimes committed are obviously inter-related, there is no other concrete correlation besides the mark, and that frustration point of the detective is a beautiful construct of his maddening quest to otherwise link what cannot be done. When the drifter (Masato Hagiwara) is finally passed on into a prison state, the dialogue that takes place between him and the detective is a fertile composition of Möbius stripped exchanges that are so well-timed and effectively construed! It’s a reoccurring tool — the dialogue between the two men, and its mystique and elusive manner without the elucidation of our questions (what is he really saying?) is one of the film’s strongest allies. Many films can easily dig their way into a hole, very adeptly and very deeply, but when it comes time to make a clearing, to dust off the space in which it was inhabiting, the ending will cop out or deliver something much weaker than what came before it. Sometimes simplicity is a good thing — like in “Pi.” Aronofsky’s choice for the character to lobotomize himself rather than come up with some extreme and ridiculous closer, is the more amiable choice. Wong Kar-wai, somewhat confusingly skipping ahead in time in “In the Mood for Love” for Tony Leung to tell his secret to the stone wall and seal it with mud and grass is a much more effective ending than having the characters cease to pursue their own twisted affair. Kurosawa’s ending to “Cure” is far more inexplicable, far more confounding. Like David Lynch’s “Lost Highway,” Kurosawa doesn’t feel the necessity, the directorial requirement to spell or label everything out. The ambiguity and audience assessment can only make it greater for each individual viewer. The stronger your investment, the stronger your enjoyment.

Kurosawa, judging from this film, is a very skilled and proficient director. His involvement and mark on the film expands beyond a technician, but there is a confident know-how in his style, which doesn’t give way to gimmicky filmmaking, but rather a unique and personally stylized achievement. His most triumphant and noticeable (by feeling, not just by seeing) achievement is the ambient atmosphere he cultivates, through a cold, matted and marble-y visage. The material that is on the screen is shot with an almost coffee table book treatment, but with the images being something you would never expect to find in those spaces. It’s minimalist, but it is also highly productive and appropriate; it is used in the best capacity — more so than one would normally aim at, and it becomes the quintessence of visual artistry. But the ambience is equally as distinguishable and perfected in the sound — the rumbling humming of the waves, the refrigerator, the wash-machine, the rustling of the trees. They all tend to carry a buzzing machinery feel, but it is an undeniable strength to the mood of the film. “Cure” is a richly absorbing film from start to finish. For as calm and relaxed as the pacing can be, the film has a paralyzing uneasiness about it, the inability to look away, to blink, to flinch, all for the fear of missing something. It’s too compelling. There are similarities to films as innovative and nonpareil as “Lost Highway” or “Memento,” but the feature is actually pre-“Memento” and released at the same time as “Highway.” The influences of each other do not exist, but instead compliment one another. And as the adage says, “Better late than never”; what would have been one of the best films of 1997, is now one of the best films of 2001. Yet the most disturbing thing of all, is that “Cure” doesn’t even get the full week to itself at the Ken (a mere, pathetic five days), but something so abject and inept as “Enlightenment Guaranteed” has come to find itself in a comfortable open-ended engagement at the La Jolla Village Cinemas.

Final Verdict: A+.

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originally posted: 07/28/01 13:14:37
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User Comments

3/08/09 Badass Brother The movie is about alienation and identity. 5 stars
11/02/05 Indrid Cold What J-horror movies lack in plot, they make up for with some brilliantly creepy scenes. 4 stars
5/18/05 K. Sear Decent but a little disjointed. 4 stars
5/03/04 Jean i'd say it's a high quality / not so highly entertaining movie. still worth a look 4 stars
11/11/03 Ingo Wow. 5 stars
3/22/03 Celine Fantastic! 5 stars
10/24/02 Mandi Apple Beautiful, dark, tense and evil... not for horror-cheese fans tho' as it's a bit slow 5 stars
1/11/02 Lauren the most amazing, terrifying movie. 3 months later, i still can't stop talking about it. 5 stars
9/23/01 pulsewidth Fascinating, baffling, disturbing, amazing 5 stars
8/14/01 Nice Guy Eddie Like D. Lynch? Like Se7en? You'll like this. Year's second best behind Memento (so far!) 5 stars
8/01/01 dull, boring, see AUDITION for a great film 1 stars
7/29/01 All And where the hell are we going to find this movie? 1 stars
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