Cure (1997)

JULY 31, 2009


I really liked Cure (Japan: Kyua). I didn’t understand all of it (the much lauded final shot is seemingly left entirely up to your own conclusion), and it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, but I liked it. I didn’t doze off once (a rarity for a movie I have to “read”), I didn’t shout at the screen for something to “happen!” despite the fact that it’s often very slow, and when it was done I pondered watching it again to see if it would help fill in some of answers to questions I had, unlike recent puzzlers such as Antichrist or Wendigo.

I think what I dug was the detached style of the film. Almost every scene unfolds in a wide shot, with minimal edits. I was struck by how many scenes involved a character walking from one side of the frame to the other - conventional filmmaking would employ a cut (and a closer shot), which would distract, even if only on a subconscious level. By shooting the film this way, you feel like you’re on the outside looking in, as opposed to most serial killer movies, in which the director tries to get you as close as possible to the goings on.

I also liked the abruptness of the murder scenes. After a while you can kind of spot them coming, but they all unfold sort of like the nurse scene from The Exorcist III, where you’re watching someone do mundane things in a single shot for minutes and then BAM! someone comes out of nowhere and does them in. Again - for all the talk of their ghost films, to me, our Eastern horror filmmakers are far more effective when dealing with horror of the non-supernatural type.

And the killer is terrifically entertaining. He can hypnotize people through repetition, so he pretends (I think) to have the shortest short term memory since Sammy Jankis. So he’ll ask if you’re married, and you tell him you have a wife, and he’ll ask what she does, and when you say “She’s a doctor” or whatever, his reponse is “Who’s a doctor?”, as he has “forgotten” the initial question. You’d think it would be annoying, but it’s actually kind of charmingly quirky, and then when you realize the sinister motivation for it, it’s pretty damn creepy (another reason I’d like to go back and watch it again).

And he is matched with the lead cop, played by Kôji Yakusho. He’s an interesting character: he’s got a crazy wife and he’s obviously been around the block a few times. And he’s not without humor either; when interrogating a murder suspect, he first asks if he saw this type of killing on a movie. Heh. Some of the movie seems to exist in his own head, and that gets kind of confusing, but either way it’s the rare J-horror film with a hero as compelling as its villain, and when the two finally meet it’s like seeing Deniro and Pacino finally face off (in the film and in all of movie-dom) in Heat.

The only extra on the DVD is a lengthy interview with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (who also helmed the equally slow but yet compelling Kairo), but he doesn’t talk about the film so much as he does his own beliefs and philosophies. It’s an interesting chat, but I’d be lying if I said I wish he (or some other feature on the DVD) helped answer a few questions I had. Being that it’s a foreign film that was released prior to the Asian boom in the States, it’s not widely discussed over here, and I hate to trust in the IMDb messageboards for answers. But it was recommended by HMAD readers Zed and Becca, so I hope they and whoever else has seen it weighs in with their thoughts.

(Personally, I think the detective has taken on the role of the killer - but I have no idea what the hell that shot of his wife all cut up and being rolled vertically down the hall was all about. Another figment of his imagination?)

What say you?

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  1. I just watched Cure, and I'm trying to figure out what's up with that ending. People seem to think that Takabe was immune to Mamiya's hypnotic powers, but why did he keep hallucinating, and why did Mamiya know details about the hallucinations (like when he saw his wife hanging by a rope)? I think Takabe was resistant at first but, in the end, Mamiya was able to completely transplant his own personality into Takabe's mind (which he reinforces with all the clues set up in the abandoned house, and completes by making the "X" gesture before he dies). He kept saying they were similar. And that's why Takabe has seemingly taken over as the new mesmer killer (and has started smoking). Maybe it's the real Mesmer and he's been doing that for years: transferring his conciousness to other people before he dies. The Cure for death.

    It's easy to read too much into things though...

  2. And what about that waitress at the very end of the movie? She's onto something evil, because we see her carrying a big knife, seeming like she's gonna kill someone.

  3. in the end Takabe looks relax for the first time...even when they call him. In the first scene, he got up quickly and left. Now he relaxes and smokes- like Mamiya did- maybe because her wife is dead. We can see a short scene when she appears sitting in her wheelchair with and x on her throat. And the waitress is definitely going to kill his boss with that knife. So, I have to think that Takabe was involved in some way. Interesting movie and director. "Pulse" is also a weird and dark movie of the same director. Pretty cool.


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