Cure by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Review)

A compellingly ambiguous morality play that is Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s unquestioned master work.
Cure, Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Cure is a film I first tried to see a couple years ago when it played to rave reviews at a small theater here in Toronto. Alas, when I arrived at the theater I was told that the print they had had been badly scratched and they were still awaiting delivery of a new copy. I sadly went on my way and had to wait a year and a half to finally catch the film thanks to a cheap bootleg DVD copy.

Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa — no, he’s not related to that other Kurosawa you may have heard about — is one of Japan’s most respected film talents and Cure is his unquestioned master work. It tells the story of Keniche Takabe, a weary Tokyo detective with a decaying home life who is assigned to investigate a series of seemingly unconnected murders that share an identical modus operandi. All of the victims are killed with a large ​“X” sliced around their necks by otherwise peaceable people who claim to have had no control over their actions at the time. Is there some underlying link that is being overlooked? Some sort of mind control or supernatural force at play?

Cure is a stark, austere film that is beautifully shot and acted. Like his contemporary Hideo Nakata (The Ring, Dark Water), Kurosawa understands the importance of mood and tone, and he frames and paces his shots meticulously. In the hands of a lesser director, or just about any current North American studio, a script like this would devolve into mindless slasher fare. But Kurosawa is a true master of his craft and in his hands, Cure becomes a compellingly ambiguous morality play, a meditation on the darkness that lies within everyone and just how simple it is to cross into that darkness.

Cure is a perfect entry point into the work of a compelling artist whose work is already being optioned for release in North America — Wes Craven has reportedly bought remake rights to Pulse, Kurosawa’s subversive teen ghost story/​look at technological isolation/​tale of the impending apocalypse — and HVE have released Cure on DVD with a pristine transfer, in the original aspect ratio, and a recent interview with the director.

Written by Chris Brown.

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