Cure キュア (1997) – Japan
The cinematography glides. The performances soar. And the horror is real.
That Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa hasn't found more recognition. Seriously, give that man some cash.
There is a low-hum whirring of an empty washer/dryer in Kiyoshi Kurosawa‘s Cure, and it engulfs you. It is this ambience that sets the tone, to lay out the foundation for the protagonist’s plights, prep you for the subliminal. You’re coaxed into dark living, with Takabe; – and oddly, you’re never wanting to leave.
It’s Ligottian; it’s Lynchian. It’s the best in horror of a very long time.
The Scary of Not Supernatural
You follow Detective Takabe on a grisly succession of killings. The victims share an identical, macabre mark torn into their throats, of an ‘x’. Each is murdered by a different person. Always those killers admit the crime, abandoning the notion: it would’ve happened again.
And when Takabe and Sakuma, his psychiatrist partner, ask each what the cause for action was, the killers cry: “I don’t know. It felt natural.”
The case comes to a halt. Leads evaporate.
Takabe and Sakuma don’t believe the killers’ pleas. They appear just as innocent. The resemblances in case information are too absurd to have been acted out in such an identical fashion by more than one. But where as Takabe is determined to further investigate, Sakuma assumes it is all of an unnatural fate: “People like to think a crime has some meaning. Most of them don’t.” They should leave it alone.
Sakuma insists Takabe should take more efforts to be at home with his ill wife, with Alzheimer’s, than connect the killings to meaning. And Takabe cannot help but resist. He is our hero.
But we see that it’s hard for him to leave her everyday. She does really need his help, with losing her sense of direction and comfort often. That’s where the whirring comes from, with her leaving uncooked food on Takabe’s plate, and turning on the washer/dryer with no clothes inside.
Takabe treads on clues soon after that suggest it isn’t unnatural, the cause for the killings, and Sakuma believes again; something is aloof, perhaps occult, with hypnosis at the front. But there is only a one suspect that fits the crimes, who is smart enough, supposedly: a strolling, travelling man who cannot remember his name, suffering from another kind of short-term memory loss.
Kôji Yakusho‘s performance as Takabe is perfectly callused, cold and deceiving. He plays the chill detective of classic crime novels well, with his wrinkled trench coat and greasy cigarettes a part of his thinking. Yakusho is a master of understated acting, recognized in other movies well, but here, with Kurosawa, he shows he’s home. Their approaches toward life, of pessimism, are fit for one another, and you the same.
The visuals grab from all the prizes of prior generations, of giallo colors and neo-noir mood, to seduce and embrace you with the lull for a lucid nightmare to come, of its ending and realist’s reveal.
The shots pair well with the, at times lilting, score so as to waft the outward world away. The Steadicam shots glide, making the violent and the terrible graceful and divine, but never in a way that is too fast or distracting.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s script is magic that binds rusty, retired film parts of trope for new, measured affect, for your slipping into the woozy brilliance of perverted pessimism. He gifts you your package of woeful tale onscreen, the settings stark but nevertheless imaginative, like those scratched from Laird Barron and Thomas Ligotti stories, where the workhouse of a straight man tries his hardest to face all odds in a deserted, seedy town kind of a place, where first names are all that you have. Maybe that straight man does not prevail in Kurosawa or Ligotti’s stories, but under their aesthetic veils that include a linkage to the supernatural, you mind nothing. It’s all a treat.
It’s a hard, brutal journey for Takabe, and you, to follow, but Cure‘s descent of a ride is taut entertainment – and a deliciously scary – in subtle ways. The pieces, like a Lovecraftian short story, all come together, to greet the opening scenes, and you remember: yes, this is the way it has to end; that horror is someone’s fall – has to be – and you welcome the darkness, however wrong.
It’s a shame the film hasn’t reached a wider audience with what becomes of the characters. But, like Ligotti and Barron, the pessimist’s approach in theme to narrative, especially for film, is never one for widespread appeal. I guarantee you will soon to enjoy it though. It focuses on the simple of psychological upset and confusion to catch you – sway you into a lull so as to follow its steps into the unknown, from a character, the no-name man’s lighter. Its flame dancing for to mesmer-ize.