CURE directed and written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa from his own novel, produced by Tetsuya Ikeda, Satoshi Kanno, Atsuyuki Shimoda and Tsutomu Tsuchikawa, with Koji Yakusho, Masato Hagiwara, Tsuyoshi Ujiki and Anna Nakagawa. 111 minutes. A Daiei production. Opens Friday (October 5). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 95. Rating: NNNNN
cure's mood is so trance-like,you emerge from the theatre uncertain if you've seen it or dreamed it. Simply, a Japanese police inspector gets caught up in a series of gruesome signature homicides. The killings are all remarkably similar but are perpetrated by different people, and are all apparently motiveless murders of friends, loved ones and business associates.
The inspector discovers Mamiya, a drifter who seems to be suffering from such severe amnesia that he can't remember questions he's just been asked or answers he's just received. He's something like David Hare's Wetherby, a character described as a central disfiguring blankness, but Mamiya turns out to be rather more than a mere enigma.
The wheels of international film distribution sometimes grind exceedingly slowly -- this atmospheric horror film has taken four years to achieve commercial release in Canada, despite the fact that the Toronto International Film Festival gave director Kiyoshi Kurosawa a retrospective a couple of years ago. I saw Cure at this year's Miami Film Festival.
Given the dumbed-down state of the current marketplace, Cure's delayed release is not surprising. At a time when American films increasingly rely on unreal settings and disorienting editing styles, Kurosawa works with long shots and long takes, and prefers to use architecture and geography to "cut" and frame the shots within the frame. He also rejects practical solutions to his mysteries, as in character A did B because of C.
There's a cultural underlay here that isn't obvious to the North American viewer.
I'd speculate that the film's thematic linchpin, remote-control murder, is linked to the 1994 sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway system. If so, it becomes a way of addressing the apocalyptic idea of the attacks without dealing with the practical facts of those assaults (which were launched by a cult under orders) -- rather in the way that a film like The Wild Bunch is about Vietnam without being about Vietnam.
On another level, Cure asks much the same question as Memento: "If you can't remember what you've done, do you know who you are?"
One of the year's most intriguing and unsettling films, even if it is four years old.