Thursday, April 24, 2014


Monday, October 7, 2013

Real - dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2012. Lincoln Center.

Protagonist must rescue lover from coma, metaphysical peril by entering lover's mind using a sci-fi dream machine.

Blissfully zany, wild nonsense. As you might guess from its title and premise, the main action takes place on different planes of reality and the film constantly keeps us guessing as to what plane we're on. It has like four fake-out endings, one of which comes about half-way through the film. Each fake-out end initially seems annoying but then What Happens Next ratchets the film up a whole 'nother level of crazy. I think it would spoil the fun to say too much more about the plot.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is one of my favorite filmmakers. He is well known for having worked in an astonishing variety of genres. I've seen yakuza films (The Revenge, Serpent's Path), horror films (Seance, Cure, Pulse, Retribution), a screwy comedy (Doppleganger), family dramas (Bright Future, Tokyo Sonata), pink film (The Excitement of Do-Re-Mi-Fa Girl) and unclassifiable combinations of all of the above (Charisma). Real is another genre-masher, equal parts love story, sci-fi, and horror.

One never knows what to expect in Kurosawa's films. With the exception of the terrifyingly tight Cure, they are all strange yarns, unrolling haphazardly in odd digressions, bizarre twists, slow burns punctuated by the baffling. They may sometimes be thin on substance. What holds them together is mood, feeling, atmosphere. His comedies seem to trot on the air. His horror and gangster films are suffused with dread and melancholy. Anything might happen at any moment--usually something frightening. He's a master of the obliquely-framed, blurry ghost in the background, the shot that lingers just a little too long, the subtle slow camera lurk. And behind it all there is usually some kind of philosophical attitude or social concern.  Seance uses ghosts to explore mid-life crisis and childless marriage. Pulse uses ghosts to talk about anomie and suicide. Cure and Charisma use psychism to explore alienation, aggression, and apocalyptic yearnings that lie under the surface of the everyday. Doppleganger is happy existentialism, The Revenge is a bit more nihilistic on that count. Real is about, what? Love, probably. But mostly a good time.

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