July 13-15, 2001

American Cinematheque Presents...

Breaking Genres with Japanese Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Presented in association with Cowboy Booking.

Series Compiled by Noah Cowan and John Vanco/Cowboy Booking, Dennis Bartok and Chris D.

Special Thanks: Naoko Watanabe and Rie Takauchi/JAPAN FOUNDATION; Takayuki Yuhara/DAIEI CO.; Naoya Otsuka/KSS INC.; Nikkatsu Films; Twins/Miro Vision – Japan.; Hiromi Aihara; Christian Storms

Tickets available 30 days in advance.

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One of the most internationally-acclaimed filmmakers to emerge from Japan since the early 1970’s, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a minimalist master at subverting and reinventing film genres, turning psychological thrillers (CURE), yakuza crime dramas (EYE OF THE SPIDER, THE SERPENT’S PATH), and even occult horror films (CHARISMA) into his own mysterious, tantalizingly elliptical musings on the known and the unknown, what is (un)seen and what is (mis)understood. "The themes of my films? Stories of men and women whose value systems are shattered by a particular event, which utterly undermines their sense of self," Kurosawa has observed.

Born in Kobe, Japan in 1955, Kurosawa (no relation to director Akira) was weaned on American action films by such hardboiled masters as Sam Peckinpah, Robert Aldrich and Don Siegel. He began his career grinding out low-budget sex and action films, including THE EXCITEMENT OF THE DO-RE-MI-FA GIRL starring friend and mentor Juzo Itami (TAMPOPO), which proved too "unerotic" to be distributed by studio Nikkatsu! Since then, Kurosawa has turned out an astonishing number of films for both theatrical and straight-to-video release, making him one of the most prolific and unpredictable directors working in Japan today. With the American release of his most acclaimed film, CURE, by Cowboy Booking, Kurosawa seems poised at the brink of popular international success and recognition. We are very proud to welcome director Kiyoshi Kurosawa in-person for this first Los Angeles retrospective of his work!

 

Friday, July 13 – 7:00 PM

Exclusive Sneak-Preview!!

CURE, 1998, Cowboy Booking, 115 min. Kurosawa’s most acclaimed film is a stunning, wholly original thriller focusing on a Tokyo police detective (Koji Yakusho) who is faced with a series of grisly, seemingly-random murders committed by businessmen, married couples, even police officers. The only connection between the killings turns out to be an apparently amnesiac homeless man (Masato Hagiwara, in a breathtaking performance), who has released the killers’ homicidal impulses through hypnosis. Shrouded in mystery, suspense and paranoia, CURE is one of the most subtle and unnerving crime films to appear in years. But beware – halfway through, you’ll start to wonder if the film is hypnotizing you! With Tsuyoshi Ujiki, Anna Nakagawa. Discussion following with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

 

U.S. Premieres! Double-Feature:

Friday, July 13 – 9:45 PM

THE REVENGE – A VISIT FROM FATE ( FUKUSHU – UNMEI NO MONONSHA) 1996, KSS, 83 min. Popular yakuza film star Sho Aikawa is a police detective haunted by the brutal murder of his parents from his childhood. He inadvertently discovers the killer while investigating a drug case, but before he can take action the killer murders his wife, Saeko. Kurosawa's inimitable one-scene, one-cut technique achieves maximum impact with this dark pair of yakuza thrillers.

THE REVENGE – THE SCAR THAT NEVER FADES (FUKUSHU – KIENAI KIZUATO) 1996, KSS, 80 min. In this sequel to A VISIT FROM FATE, Sho Aikawa's character is now no longer with the police, but employed by a recycling company, and continuing his vendetta against those responsible for his wife's murder. He's caught in an emotional vise between Nishi, a young detective trying to prevent the revenge killings, and close friend yakuza boss Yoshioka. Director Kurosawa finishes his weird mural of a hellish crime netherworld in this haunting Japanese noir.

 

Saturday, July 14 – 5:00 PM

CHARISMA, 1999, Nikkatsu, 103 min. Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Yabuike (Koji Yakusho, from CURE), a hostage negotiator suffering from a personal crisis, is sent on forced vacation to a strange wooded region – where he discovers a community of opinionated screwballs dominated by the wicked, all-pervasive emanations of a godlike tree named "Charisma"! As in Kurosawa’s other genre-defying thrillers, humankind learns to co-exist with occult terror, and rational thought proves it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Compared by critic Jason Sanders to a "Tarkovsky-directed X-Files"! Discussion following with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

 

Double Feature!!

Saturday, July 14 – 7:45 PM

EYE OF THE SPIDER (KUMO NO HITOMI), 1997, Daiei, 83 min. Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Shot back-to-back, EYE OF THE SPIDER and SERPENT’S PATH both feature actor Sho Aikawa as a character named "Niijima," seeking revenge for the gangland murder of his friend’s daughter – but otherwise (and in typical Kurosawa fashion), the two films are wildly different. EYE OF THE SPIDER, although possessed of an overflowing body count, is absurdly humorous at its core, populated with goofily-conflicted characters -- such as a fossil-collecting gang boss -- who seem to somehow retain their humanity despite the insanity around them. With Ren Ohsugi (HANA-BI, BROTHER).

SERPENT’S PATH (HEBI NO MICHI), 1997, Daiei, 85 min. Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa. A grimly unsettling foray into the heart of darkness as ice-in-his-veins Niijima (Sho Aikawa) helps his emotional pal Miyashita (Teruyuki Kagawa) track the snuff film gang responsible for his daughter’s horrific rape/murder. Kurosawa spins a chilling web of cold ellipses as loneliness, betrayal and the inability to ever know someone’s true motives take center stage.

 

Double-Feature!!

Sunday, July 15 – 5:00 PM

SEANCE, 1999, Twins Japan/Miro Vision, 97 min. Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Simultaneously a goose pimple-inducing chiller and a profound meditation on the contradiction of exceptional people mired in mediocrity, SÉANCE details the plight of a genuine spiritualist (Jun Fubuki) frustrated with her lack of recognition. Her recruitment by the police when a young girl is kidnapped, and the insane coincidence of the girl hiding in her sound engineer husband’s equipment case, provides a bizarre opportunity for her to capitalize on the events – a choice which leads to an out-of-control spiral of supernatural terror and tragedy. With Koji Yakusho.

 

LICENSE TO LIVE (NINGEN GOKAKU), 1999, Daiei, 109 min. Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa. One of Kurosawa’s most personal and deeply felt films, LICENSE TO LIVE depicts a young man, Yutaka (Hidetoshi Nishijima) who awakens after a ten-year, car accident-induced coma. Instead of finding the comfort of his closely-knit family, he soon realizes his father, mother and sister have scattered to the four winds, leaving their ‘dude’ ranch – now transformed into a carp fishing facility -- in the care of Koji Yakusho (CURE), a ne’er-do-well who illegally dumps toxic waste as a sideline. A brilliant, modern-day Rip Van Winkle parable that illustrates the bleakly humorous futility of ever being able to establish order in a chaotic world. Discussion between films with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa.