Thursday, September 24, 2009

Close Your Eyes And Count Back From Ten

Cure (2005)Directed By Kiyoshi Kurosawa

“He is a missionary...a missionary sent to propagate the ceremony…”
A detective in Japan is investigating a series of grisly murders, where the unrelated killer’s all claim to have acted without intent when they carved the same X into their victims chests. A mysterious drifter appears to be the only connection between them. The man is in a daze, unsure of where he is, and unable to keep a clear train of thought. Each of these meetings involves a fragmented stream of questions, “who are you?” “Where are we now?”, and ends in the flick of a lighter. The drifter we discover is a hypnotist. This is all established early on, and the majority of the film deals with discovering why the crimes are occurring in the first place and the perils of how to interrogate someone who can plant homicidal or suicidal suggestions in the most banal and innocuous words. “Cure” opens with a scene involving a woman in a silent room with a psychologist discussing the fable of Bluebeard, which is about an evil prince who killed a new wife on a perpetual series of wedding nights. She doesn’t mention Bluebeard's murders, when talking to the doctor, but reads the opening lines about the great prince showing up to ask a farmer for his daughter’s hand in marriage, “Aside from the fact that his beard was blue, there was nothing out of the ordinary about him at all”. She says to the dr. followed by “I know how the book ends…the daughter kills her husband”. This is how the story really does end, but what’s been omitted is Bluebeard’s history of killing all his wives and his attempt to add the daughter to his collection. Erasing these facts, or if you didn’t know the Bluebeard tale already, the story goes handsome prince comes to ask the hand of a simple farm girl, simple farm girl kills prince. Basically a simple murder becomes complicated by an omitted piece of evidence which makes the story seem creepy and uncanny. This is an important scene for the rest of the film and it’s easy to overlook, and it is to be overlooked on purpose, because Cure is a film about the transfer of subliminal psychological hints, and it’s structured and edited accordingly, where a slow accumulation of facts through long takes and silence, gives every moment a hypnotic and ominous ambiance.The character in this scene is the wife of a detective investigating the murders, but she is otherwise not involved in the case in any way. This scene is directed at the viewer, as a subliminal hint and comment on the things to come where “ordinary” people butcher victims at random. But then again maybe it’s not random? One of the killer’s claims he hated the man he killed, that he had hated him for years and just finally snapped, but then why carve the X? Was he a “copycat” killer, inspired subconsciously by reading about the crimes in the paper or hearing about them on TV, or a man unwilling even if it could possibly exonerate him of his crimes to admit that he was not in control of himself, even for a moment. Either the murders are taking on a life of their own in “normal” copy-cat crimes, or his ego can’t cope with being compromised by the presence of another, and would rather be seen as a murderer than a victim. It’s another scene early on that’s easy to miss, because we never see the detective follow up. The murder rate rises, burying the crime in backed up case load. Subtle implications like these charge the film, outside and inside of its hypno-serial killer plot, with a clinical view of free will and determinism. Larry Cohen b-movie called “God Told Me To” features a similar spontaneous murder wave sweeping a city, only it's killer’s are men of various faiths and atheists who all claim the voice of God suddenly commanded them to murder. Of course good ol Larry spins it into a yarn about alien mind-control and genetic hybrid messiahs, but “Cure” plays its philosophical implications with the subtlety and complexity of Andrie Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” (A film I hated the first couple of times I saw it, and only really clicked for me later). Like the Bluebeard scene at the beginning or the old cliché about jazz, “it’s the notes that aren’t being played that are important” in "Cure" (as well as "Stalker")On the level of plot it’s a gripping and commanding thriller and police procedural, but what makes it better than just a good genre flick (which I love as the sun and moon) is the extra attention to detail it pays to it’s wider and more far reaching consequences of it’s ending, which evokes global apocalypse and the headless arbitrary deterministic horror of “Cube” literally with a whisper. “Cure” doesn’t keep it’s violence off screen, but creates it’s own rhythm combing the most utilitarian elements from the modern of high impact grit, gore, and cg gross, with crisp edits, that are more scarring for how blink-or-you’ll-miss-them they are (as anything could happen at any time), and the tried and true staples of a boiler-pot suspense of slowly accumalately details. "Cure" is a minimalist thriller, where screen time expands for a flame from a small lighter or a dripping faucet, and contracts for a corpse being mutilated or a man throwing himself out of a window. Though it sounds simple enough on paper, it’s amazingly effective, and on the same level of quality with “The Shining” and “The Ring”. The history of hypnotism and it being a now psychologically studied modern method once considered a form of black magic by many is also interesting. Fun facts like Mesmerism coming from the real life Franz Mesmer: infuse the script with an extra sense of gravitas and allure. ::Spolier::The end of the film involves the detective releasing the hypnotist from prison so he can follow him back to his hideout, and discover the truth once and for all. This is after having multiple hallucinations from his previous encounters with the drifter earlier. It’s possible that he was forced to release the hypnotist and forced to subsequently gun him down. The entire film being a kind of initiation of the detective, into serving as the drifter’s replacement like the little remembered, but excellent 70’s erotic haunted house horror, “The Sentinel”. Either way, he ends up listening to a gramophone recording which tells us nothing as to what literally is going on, but implies the drifter was perhaps a student who found the gramophone played back it’s vinyl and became hypnotized into being a hypnotist who hypnotizes others and infects them in a endless stream of memetic murder…The apocalyptic implication comes if more than one person could be exposed to the record, they would be walking plague of homicidal suggestions::SpoilerOver:: I like horror films where the villain is an abstract force the characters can’t comprehend or control, a crushing cosmic and inescapable fate, remote as death itself is from our out experience of life. Kiyoshi Kuroswaw’s (no relation to Akira) “Cure” is a fascinating, clever, and “hypnotic” movie, that’s scary in more ways than meet the eye.

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