The artful and disturbing CURE was the breakout film by Japan’s
Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and is still arguably his finest work.
Prior to making CURE in 1998, Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no
relation to Akira) was a prolific director of Japanese B-pictures for
over a decade. After CURE’S release Kurosawa made several important
genre films like CHARISMA (1999),
SÉANCE (1999) and
PULSE (2001). None, however, came close
to replicating the haunting power of CURE.
One night a businessman inexplicably kills a
prostitute, leaving an X slashed across the corpse’s neck. Takabe, a
detective, investigates the case, but can’t uncover any coherent reason
for the murder.
The following day a strange young man is discovered
wandering around a beach by a young schoolteacher. The mystery man, who
identifies himself as Mamiya, doesn’t know where or who he is. Yet he
has an evident talent for hypnosis, and hypnotizes the schoolteacher
with a flickering lighter flame. The following day the teacher slices up
his wife. Takabe questions him but once again can’t get any concrete
Mamiya is picked up by cops and, finding himself alone
with a policeman, again utilizes his hypnotic talents. The cop later
shoots one of his fellows in the head. Once again Takabe questions the
killer, and this time learns of the hypnosis.
Mamiya again utilizes his talents, this time on a woman
doctor examining him. We learn a bit of his modus operandi in this
scene: Mamiya has no personality of his own and so hypnotically delves
into those of others, in the process subtly brining out peoples’ latent
psychoses. In this case he learns the woman doctor is a frustrated
surgeon; after being hypnotized she methodically slices up a man’s face
in a public restroom.
Mamiya is apprehended shortly thereafter and
interrogated by Takabe. The latter is easily wound up by Mamiya, and
dangerously so--returning home, Takabe hallucinates his wife’s corpse
hanging in his kitchen, even though she’s still alive and well. Clearly
he’s falling under Mamiya’s influence, especially when he seems to kill
his wife with a steak knife--but the operative word here is seems,
as Takabe’s reality is steadily dissolving.
In CURE Kiyoshi Kurosawa demonstrates a mastery of tone
and filmmaking know-how that’s impressive, and appropriate to the
It’s the overall calmness of the film that makes
it so unnerving. Visualized largely through precisely composed wide
shots with a rich multi-layered soundtrack (listen for a creepy
electronic undertone that plays under certain scenes), the film never
loses its cool regardless of the awfulness of the violent acts depicted
This befits the themes of mesmerism and hypnosis. CURE
has a style that is in its own way quite hypnotic, rendering the
proceedings all the more disturbing with the suggestion that, contrary
to what most hypnotists claim, anyone is capable of being coerced
into murder. Terrific performances by Kurosawa regular Koji Yakusho and
Tsuyoshi Ujiki complete this peerlessly unsettling glimpse into the
darker corners of the human psyche.
Mention must also be made of Kurosawa’s penchant for
teasing ambiguity. In this film the “explanations” are scant, with much
about the killer’s motives and methods left ambiguous, and a puzzling
neither-here-nor-there ending. Whether this constitutes a flaw I’m not
sure, but Kurosawa’s enigmas make for an alternately fascinating and
maddening viewing experience.
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Producers: Tsutomu Tsuchikawa, Atsuyuki Shimoda
Screenplay: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cinematography: Tokusyo Kikumura
Editing: Kan Suzuki
Cast: Koji Yakusho, Tsuyoshi Ujiki, Anna Nakagawa, Masato Hagiwara,
Yoriko Doguchi, Yukijiro Hotaru, Denden, Ren Ohsugi, Masahiro Toda