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Home / A CINEMA OF DREAD: The Films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa
In celebration of the upcoming release of his latest him, WIFE OF A SPY, the American Cinematheque is proud to present this retrospective to one of the most renowned auteurs in contemporary Japanese cinema: Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
Drawing comparisons to filmmakers such as Yasujirō Ozu, Andrei Tarkovsky, Alfred Hitchcock, and Stanley Kubrick, Kiyoshi Kurosawa has developed a wholly unique style and impressive oeuvre in his four decades as a filmmaker. Although he has been celebrated for his work across a broad range of genres, his influence on international cinema is most strongly tied to his groundbreaking approach to horror.
Making his feature film debut in the early 1980s fresh out of Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Kurosawa experimented with exploitation films and low budget direct-to-video horrors before skyrocketing to international acclaim with his 1997 horror crime film CURE. Starring Kōji Yakusho in his first of many collaborations with the filmmaker, CURE follows a detective’s cat and mouse search for an enigmatic amnesiac (Masato Hagiwara), who leaves behind a gruesome trail of unexplained murders. The film became one of the sparks for the J-horror explosion in the early 2000s and solidified Kurosawa’s unique style of horror that relies not on blood and gore, but on an overwhelming sense of existential dread and psychological terror.
In Kurosawa’s horror films, fear comes first and foremost from the darkness of the human mind, which is true of his follow ups to CURE including CHARISMA (1999), SÉANCE (2001), and RETRIBUTION (2007), which was produced as part of Takashige Ichise’s J-Horror Theater series. Kurosawa’s most haunting film is perhaps PULSE, which premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival and spawned an English language remake plus two sequels. The film follows a group of young friends who are haunted by apparitions within their computer screens.
Throughout his career, Kurosawa has revisited horror time and again, most recently in his critically acclaimed 2016 film CREEPY, but at the same time he has not been afraid to venture beyond. In these cases, even when operating outside genre cinema, Kurosawa consistently provokes fear through his commitment to humanity’s shared existential dread. His 2003 drama BRIGHT FUTURE, for example, taps into the inner experiences of alienated young adults through a bizarre story involving murder and a mysterious jellyfish. In 2008 he ventured even further from horror cinema with TOKYO SONATA, a heartbreaking family drama following a father’s loss of employment, which took home the Jury Prize of the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival.
The latest film WIFE OF A SPY is another exciting venture into unchartered territory for the filmmaker, as he directs a thrilling Hitchcockian period piece set in 1940 in Kobe, the night before the outbreak of World War II. The film won Kurosawa the Silver Lion for Best Direction at the 77th Venice International Film Festival
Join us at the Los Feliz 3 throughout September to celebrate Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s pulse-pounding cinema!
Los Feliz 3 | Sneak Preview
$8.00 (member) ; $13 (general admission)
Aero Theatre | Live virtual Q&A following with Kiyoshi Kurosawa, moderated by Adam Nayman
$8.00 (member) ; $13.00 (general admission)
Los Feliz 3 | In 35mm
Los Feliz 3 | With pre-recorded Q&A with Kiyoshi Kurosawa, moderated by Adam Nayman.
Los Feliz 3 | Part of the “Kiyoshi Kurosawa Retrospective” series