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Original Title:

Japan 1997


Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Koji Yakusho
Masato Hagiwara
Tsuyoshi Ujiki
Anna Nakagawa
Yoriko Douguchi
Yukijiro Hotaru
Ren Osugi
Misayo Haruki
Masahiro Toda

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Story: Detective Takabe (Koji Yakusho) and the psychologist Sakuma (Tsuyoshi Ujiki) are confronted with a difficult case. A murder series takes place, whose victims are signed with a cut "X" in the chest and neck area. The culprits seem to be of the inconspicuous and quite type, who aren't connected with each other in any way. According to their testimony they killed these people, because it just seemed right at that point of time.
Takabe comes up with a theory: He believes that the culprits were forced into committing the murders by the use of hypnosis.
Soon, Takabe finds Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara), a confused young man, who can't remember who he is, and who is suffering from strong amnesia, that lets him even forget the things he is just told right away. Takabe finds out that Mamiya was a psychology major, who engaged in study of mesmerism. Mamiya starts a dangerous psychological game with Takabe and more victims are showing up. Can Mamiya really be stopped?

Review: "Cure" is a very slow-paced psychological thriller that tells us a clever, but sometimes also confusing story. Kurosawa's directing and narration seems to be bound to no rules, but instead oftentimes looks pretty experimental. That's the strength and at the same time the weak point of the movie.
The way the inner feelings and motives are explored goes deep down and is inventive. At first, Takabe is a thin drawn character, but as the movie progresses we learn to know more about him, his fears and weakness.

Koji Yakusho gives a good performance as Takabe. With time we learn more about his life and about his wife, who is a big burden to him. She is suffering from some kind of amnesia-like illness, quickly forgets things or sometimes even gets lost. Although Takabe cares for his wife, he never shows any emotions. Takabe seems to be an empty shell, who has his place in society and does what has to do - which in his case is the police work.
This all changes when Takabe meets the somehow charismatic, but also power-radiating Mamiya. Masato Hagiwara, who plays Mamiya, manages to seem dangerous in a subtle way, without being really evil. Nevertheless, the audience starts to hate him, even if it's only because of his repeating questions about who he is, who the others are etc. Mamiya succeeds in bringing Takabe's repressed emotions and fears to the surface and we are just waiting for the straw that breaks the camel's back.

At first, we are wondering who the murderer is, but as soon as we get to know Mamiya and his technique of hypnosis, we know more than Takabe does. Yet, there are still some questions, that are answered one after another. There are some twists and surprises that keep the tension up and especially the ending is pretty well done. Although it might leave behind a lot of unsatisfied viewers. Kurosawa expects us to analyze the protagonists, to draw our own conclusions and to close the circle at the seemingly open ending.

Kurosawa's trip into the mind, the search for one's true identity, not the role we have to play to be a useful part of society, is depressing and fascinating. The movie's atmosphere is dense and frightening, which is supported by some few brutal scenes. Symbolisms are also used quite often. The empty washing machine, that is turned on everyday by Takabe's wife, for example, represents life which is going on and on without a deeper meaning. So the simple question could be "What's the meaning of life?". And suddenly Mamiya's repreated question who he is, starts to make sense.
Kurosawa explores the line between imagination and reality, in his own odd and fascinating way. On the whole, "Cure" is a movie about the search for one's identity.

Now, let's get to the movie's weak points. It's out of question that "Cure" is a clever psychological thriller with a deeper meaning, but the movie lacks something essential - entertainment. "Cure" has its lengths, we are left in the dark about some character's motives and there's just too much that is only implied. Latter is bearable and even quite nice, if you like to interpret for yourself, but at least the lengthy scenes where nothing really happens could have been avoided. With "Kairo" Kurosawa, after all, proved that he can make a profound movie with a great story, that doesn't have to include many lengths, and yet has his distinctive handwriting. In this regard, "Cure" is highly overrated by the critics, who praise it to the skies. You shouldn't disregard the entertainment factor when reviewing a movie, and in this aspect there are quite some deductions to be made.

"Cure" is a very good and clever psychological thriller, but is also pretty slow-paced. Those who can't get along with the way Kurosawa approaches the issue, should keep their hands off the movie. For everyone else, "Cure" is a recommendable movie, thanks to its story and theme.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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