Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:38 am 
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The elusive invertebrate

Whatever Kiyoshi Kurosawa is to the Japanese audience, for Americans he's distinctly an acquired taste. Cure struck me immediately however as haunting, creepy, and drably beautiful; it's just that one can't imagine a steady diet of such stuff. Pulse, typically stylish and moody, is completely different (and too similar to the "Ringu" franchise), but the only other Kurosawa I've seen so far, Bright Future is something else again. Symbolic interpretations of the two aimless, dangerous boys as some kind of statement about Japan's youth seem simple-minded and naive, though surely the ironic title makes that possibility all too obvious. Anyway, the presence of young people both does and does not mean anything in Kurosawa's films. He works very loosely within genres that appeal to youth, but his approach is consistently indirect and enigmatic. What strikes me is the relationship between Nimura and Mamoru--roommates and buddies on the surface, but underneath slave and master, follower and sensei, or symbiotic zombie couple--whose "child" is the symbolic poisonous jellyfish. Their lack of affect turns modern Japanese youth on its head because they're quietly terrifying and somehow also super cool, Nimura's ragged clothing a radical fashion statement and his wild hair and sculptured looks worthy of a fashion model. Mr Fujiwara is the ultimate bourgeois clueless work buddy jerk (he combines two or three different kinds of undesirable associate); but we don't usually kill them. Kurosawa films seem to usually go in the direction of some kind of muted apocalypse, but they proceed toward it casually, as if he didn't quite care where things were going.

That's because the atmosphere and look of his films are the real subjects; like any great filmmaker he begins and ends with image and sound. Note the bland, cheerful music that pops up at the darnedest places. The relationship that develops between Nimura and Shin'ichirô, Mamoru's father, after Mamoru is no more, and the scenes of Shin'ichirô's cluttered yet desolate workshop/dwelling recall Akira Kurosawa's Dodeskaden but also Italian neorealism and the clan of directionless but uniformed young bad boys who wander through the street in the long final tracking shot evokes Antonioni and the mute clowns in Blow-Up. Kiyoshi Kurosawa's framing, his use of empty urban long shots, is akin to the vision of Antonioni. If it's true that this cool stuff is all too appealing to film school dropouts ready to concoct a deep interpretation of every aimless sequence, it's also true that Kurosawa like no other living director creates his own haunting and disturbing moods, and it would be fun to compare this movie with Bong Joon-ho's boisterous The Host.

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