Don Brown the8thsamurai
Mon Feb 19 00:47:25 EST 2001

Yesterday I watched Kurosawa Kiyoshi's "Kairo" in Virgin Cinemas Senboku's 
smallest theatre, with an audience to match.  There can't have been more 
than ten people there.  At one point I was expecting to see tumbleweeds 
rolling down the aisles.
And it's not as if this is a bad film.  The concept of ghostly apparations 
as a virus forcing their way into the world of the living worked well, in 
conjunction with Kurosawa's underlying theme of human disconnection in the 
face of burgeoning information technology.  He also managed to get 
better-than-expected performances out of his young "talento" leads.  The 
unobtrusive CG work added a physical element to the psychological horror 
which has become the director's trademark, and perhaps showed the way 
forward for the director in this genre.   
As much as I like Kurosawa's work and Kairo itself, I was still left with a 
slight aftertaste of deja-vu.  The bleached imagery and dreary locations, 
the feeling that apocalypse may be just around the corner, and Yakusho Koji 
- these have all featured prominently in his previous work.  If he wasn't 
so good at it, then perhaps there'd be more reason to despair.  You could 
argue that there aren't many directors working in the same genre who can do 
psychological horror better - grabbing the audience viscerally and twisting 
until something is torn asunder.    
I can't help wondering about his comment that he aimed Kairo at 
15-year-olds.  Like Inugami, it feels like a movie born of a market need 
for genre product which manages to outgrow the restrictions of its origins. 
 Perhaps, like Fukasaku Kinji, he's trying to get his message out to "the 
kids".  In Kurosawa's case, he seems to be promoting human interaction on a 
broader wavelength than the one used by the keitai-carrying teen hordes.  
Speaking of Fukasaku, the trailer for the new improved Battle Royale played 
before the main feature.  It opens with images of people standing in long 
queues just to get into the theatre, followed by a scene from the film of a 
girl getting a knife in the forehead (an experience comparable to watching 
the movie perhaps?)  One of the many hyperbolic tag lines claimed that this 
was the movie that graduating junior high school students (the release date 
is set for April, around the start of the new school year) should not miss. 
 Are the producers really expecting it to be a success so soon after its 
initial release?  Is there really such demand from the public for an 
Don Brown
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