Cure (1997) – Film Review

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Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast: Koji Yakusho, Masato Hagiwara
Certificate: 18

by Sarah Morgan

If you’re talking about movies and the name Kurosawa is mentioned, chances are you’ll assume the person being spoken about is Akira, the legendary director of Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, which were later remade as The Magnificent Seven and A Fistful of Dollars.

cure japan film review japanese coverHowever, there’s another film-making Kurosawa out there – Kiyoshi – and despite having lots in common and both hailing from Japan, they’re not related.

Kiyoshi is yet to gain the kind of international reputation his namesake did, but if Cure is anything to go by, he deserves to be better known in the West.

“Horror element”

His first films were low-budget, often direct-to-video offerings, but after studying at the Sundance Institute in the 1990s, he began working on bigger projects.

In 1997 he released Cure. While some have described it as a crime thriller, there’s an awful lot more to it than that. Sure it has a detective as the main protagonist, but there’s a horror element too.

Koji Yakusho, one of Kurosawa’s regular collaborators, takes the lead role of cop Takabe, whose personal life – his wife is suffering from a mental illness – is far from easy. So, his latest investigation, involving a series of murders in which the victims have had a large ‘X’ carved into their neck, is giving him something else to focus on.

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“Bizarre turn”

But it’s a very puzzling case; the crime may be the same, but each perpetrator is different and there is no motive. However, when Takabe and his psychologist friend Sakuma figure out that a man named Mamiya, who claims to be suffering from amnesia, may hold the key to unlocking the mystery, matters take an even more bizarre turn.

Mamiya has disturbing powers that seem set to puncture through even Takabe’s ice-cool façade, almost driving him insane.

The tension between the two men is palpable, while the final scene is wonderfully ambiguous – make your own mind up what it all means.

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“Directs with a voyeur’s eye”

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho claims Cure is one of the greatest films of all time. It doesn’t deserve that description, but it’s certainly gritty stuff, showing a side of Tokyo rarely seen on screen– there are no glossy high-rises here, just rundown neighbourhoods.

Kurosawa directs with a voyeur’s eye – the viewer is always on the outside of the action, looking in, quietly observing – while the soundtrack is, at times, at odds with the scenes on screen, adding to the jarring and disturbing nature of the subject.

If you’re tired of the same old clichés of Western horror movies, give Cure a try – it may open up a whole new world for you.

‘Cure’ (Dual Format) is released by Eureka! £17,99


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