by Mark Vallen - July 2001
(CURE) is a genre breaking thriller created in 1998 by director
Kurosawa Kiyoshi (no relation to director Kurosawa
Akira). Based upon Kurosawa's own novel, CURE weaves
a story of psychological terror so chilling as to make Ridley
Scott's Hannibal look like mere child's play.
saw an exclusive sneak preview of Kurosawa's brilliant movie
on July 13th, 2001, at the famous Egyptian Theater
in Hollywood. The director himself showed up to talk with
the audience after the screening! Though Kurosawa has directed
many a film (Charisma, Seance), CURE
is his first U.S. theatrical debut. CURE tells
the story of a police detective named Takabe Ken-ichi
(played by Yakusho Koji, from Shall we Dance?
and Eel), who is trying to solve a series of bizarre,
seemingly unrelated murders. The police are baffled by the
gruesome string of homicides, especially since at each crime
scene, a different murderer is found who is suffering from
amnesia. The terrible killings are linked by a single grotesque
clue... each victim of foul play has a bloody X carved into
their neck and chest region.
cleverly unfolds his tale as two separate narratives, one
entailing Detective Takabe's desperate search for
a mastermind behind the serial killings, and the second
narrative being a slow introduction to the character of
Kunio Mamiya, a hapless drifter with a mysterious
connection to the manslaughter's. Mamiya (Hagiwara
Masato - pictured at right), is an individual suffering
from such severe memory loss that people doubt he's cognizant
of his surroundings at all. He has no identity of any
kind, and cannot even recognize himself in a mirror or in
his own words the drifter claimed: "What was inside me has
all escaped and now I am empty." Mamiya
asks the same redundant question of everyone he encounters:
"Who are you?" (as if trying to fill the void within
those exposed to the vacant amnesiac attempt an answer,
they only stumble upon their uncertainties and into the
black hole that is
the enigmatic character of Mamiya.
grisly murders take place where the victims were known to
have had contact with the odd wanderer, and so Mamiya is
eventually picked up for questioning by the police.
in charge of the investigation, detective
the strange young man and discovers something profoundly
disturbing about him. While the amnesiac is as blank as
an unsoiled sheet of paper, he possesses an uncanny ability.
Just what that power might be I cannot reveal, since much
of the excitement one experiences when watching Kurosawa's
film comes from unraveling it's multiple layers of mystery.
However, I will say this... the figure of Mamiya and his
connection to the murder spree is one of the most inventive
and original twists ever
presented in a detective film.
makes CURE such a remarkable thriller is it's unwillingness
to provide the audience with a character representing penultimate
evil. Instead the viewer is made to examine their own
negative impulses, and ponder just what it would take before
impulses leapt to the surface. Kurosawa's premise is that
we are all capable of misdeeds, and so his focus is on the
"banality of evil." To further throw us into a
panic the director plays upon the human frailty of uncertainty
concerning self identity, for despite our conspicuous consumption
and materialist conceits... we still cannot answer Mamiya's
question. We are chilled by the realization that there's
a bit of the hapless drifter in every one of us... we are
turned inside out by the modern age, we are empty, blank,
and living for the moment. Kurosawa
is certainly a maverick in
presenting this world view.
the screening Kurosawa took questions from the enthusiastic
audience through his excellent translator, who would provide
the director's responses to the crowd in English. When asked
how he came up with such a startling idea for a detective
story, Kurosawa replied that television news reports from
murder scenes had provided the inspiration. He noted that
such reportage always included interviews with neighbors
who would say something inane like: "But he was such
a normal fellow." This got the director thinking that
perhaps an exploration of 'normalcy' as a mask for depravity
might not be such a bad idea for a film. Kurosawa elaborated
by saying he could think of few things more genuinely disturbing
than people desperately trying to be normal, and he drove
home this point by portraying
all of the unwitting killers in CURE as upstanding
also revealed his preference for shooting scenes without
having rehearsed them beforehand, stating that this method
keeps the actors sharp and reacting to situations realistically.
Under his direction, often times a single take is all that's
required to finish a scene. Hagiwara Masato, whose
brilliant performance brought the Mamiya character to life,
was sought out due to his popularity as a television actor.
The director wanted him cast as Mamiya in order to "explore
the dark side" of an actor who up until this film had
always played an open,
friendly, upbeat sort of character.
it came to casting the role of detective Takabe, Kurosawa
quipped that he wanted a "famous actor that was my
own age." Fortunately he picked the extremely talented
A humorous moment in the after screening talk occurred when
someone asked Kurosawa why he had chosen an X shaped wound
as the fatal link in the serial killings. He replied that
his wife had suggested it, and that she had said: "If
I was going to kill someone... I'd carve an X into them!"
Kurosawa's offbeat film is
destined to become a cult favorite at art movie houses,
but it deserves a much wider audience.