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StreamingFrightening Filmographies: Kiyoshi Kurosawa | Decider

Frightening Filmographies: Kiyoshi Kurosawa | Decider

The vagaries of streaming rights being what they are, neither of the next two films are currently available to stream in the United States. That may change tomorrow, or that may never change. Either way, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention these two titles, which are both worth seeking out by hook or by crook.

Before things take a hard left into gonzo-land, there’s a scene where an actress (Nobuku Miyamoto) tells her too-admiring director that he’s a terrible listener, laughs when there isn’t anything funny, and essentially treats all the women in his employ like things to be dismissed or humored. It’s little touches like this that connect Sweet Home, which is otherwise tonally, even stylistically, dissimilar to every film that follows, to the rest of Kurosawa’s better-known filmography. The only cut of this one that has been fiddled with, what remains is still a fun, often silly to the point of slapstick, haunted house movie zeroed in on a dead woman looking for her lost child with special effects by legend Dick Smith. It doesn’t take itself very seriously, is in love with its sources, and after a light-hearted first hour, gets pretty grim pretty fast. My fave? When someone uses a giant wrench to bludgeon a torso who’s just looking for some help. Honestly, there’s not a lot not to like about this for the genre fan.

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An adaptation of Mark McShane’s Seance on a Wet Afternoon (previously adapted by Brian Forbes in 1964), Kurosawa’s take abolishes all doubt about his heroine Junko’s (Jun Fubuki) psychic gift, seeing it as a terrible burden for a young waitress rather than a grift she might exploit for profit. That does not, however, prevent her from resorting to grift when the chips turn against her. Moody, bleak, Kurosawa’s ongoing commentary about the collapse of a society swallowed by rampant consumerism and solipsism encompasses here the Japanese working class and how the wealth gap can drive otherwise decent people to desperate acts. While there’s a “happy” outcome in the source material, Kurosawa posits that dead children are the loudest repudiation of a place’s pretentious toward “civilization.” There is no such thing as success when you fail to protect the most vulnerable. Made for television but shot on film, Seance has been largely obscured by the Kurosawa films that bookend it and, in general, by the sudden interest in the West in J-horror at the start of the millennium. It’s due for a reconsideration.

Walter Chaw is the Senior Film Critic for filmfreakcentral.net. His book on the films of Walter Hill, with introduction by James Ellroy, is due in 2021. His monograph for the 1988 film MIRACLE MILE is available now.



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