Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2016 12:40 pm 
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Creeps up to its name

Kiyoshi Kurosawa has made many movies, all worth a look. None have matched my first impression of the genuinely "creepy" Cure (1997),* about a strange young man who goes around and, people soon die wherever he appears. But then came the unexpected and excellent Tokyo Sonata (2008), a socially conscious piece about a disintegrating family whose head, like the one in Laurent Cantet's 2001 Time Out, is out of work but pretending not to be, out of pride. Creepy is a horror movie, whatever people say, but it also incorporates commentary on the disintegration of Japanese society, with its neighborhoods where nobody speaks and its family members willing to turn on each other.

Creepy is admirably low key, not relying on music at all to drum up tension. It's a crabwise police procedural adapted from a mystery novel by Yutaka Maekawa. We see Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) use his knowledge of the psychology of criminal psychopaths with a disastrous lack of success to stop a criminal at the outset: a violent scene results, that leads him to resign and take a quieter job lecturing on criminology. But then he's lured back into police work little by little by his enthusiastic younger ex-colleague, Nogami (Masahiro Higashide), to analyze a case where three family members have completely disappeared except for a teenage girl, Saki (Haruna Kawaguchi). They track down Saki and her testimony suggests her family members were hypnotized or brainwashed.

Meanwhile Takakura and his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) and their big white longhaired dog Max have moved to a new place with his new teaching job. She has been trying to make friends with neighbors, not very succesfully - except a connection develops with the, well, obviously creepy Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa of Tokyo Sonata), a guy with a strange grin and intense mood shifts, who has a troubled teenage daughter and a wife who hides away. Yasuko takes to Nishino but Takadura doesn't trust him, on instinct. His instinct is right.

It's an hour or so before anything untoward happens, which is a good thing. Mark Shilling of Japan Times shows how Kurosawa uses low-keyed, everyday details to eery effect. We are lulled, then blindsided by scenes that we would rather forget. And in the last twenty minutes, Kurosawa keeps us guessing how things are going to end. There is no denying the implausible elements, including a prime suspect turning up as a neighbor, and a drug that turns people into slaves. Yet it's all handled with such subtlety and craft that we're quite willing to follow all the way.

Creepy/Kurîpî: Itsuwari no rinjin/クリーピー 偽りの隣人, 130 mins., debuted at the Berlinale; 13 other international festivals. US release 21 Oct. 2016 in New York (Metrograph) and San Francisco (Roxie); and Los Angeles (The Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts), a Kimstim Films release.
*I also wrote about his 2003 Bright Future.

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