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Crazy Thunder Road (Kuruizaki Sanda Rodo, 狂い咲きサンダーロード)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1980 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 97m

*****

Following on from Arrow’s superb BD of Sogo Ishii’s Burst City (1982) comes Third Window’s equally impressive BD release of its predecessor in the Ishii canon Crazy Thunder Road (1980) – on Blu-ray from Monday, February 21st

This was Ishii’s Nihon University student graduation project, his first to be shot on 16mm rather than Super 8, which somehow got picked up for distribution by major Japanese Studio Toei which led to their giving him a budget for Burst City. Tom Mes, who as with Burst City supplies a commentary for the film, describes Crazy Thunder Road as “one of the Holy Grails of Japanese film releases if not the Holy Grail.”

When Toei presented Ishii with what seemed like astronomical funding for Burst City, it led him to overreach himself. In retrospect, he considers Burst City unfinished… [Read the full review at All The Anime]

Crazy Thunder Road was out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, February 21st.

Opening scene:

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Pulse (Kairo)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2001 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also, currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme

Pulse aka Kairo (2001) has long been considered one of the key J-Horror films of the late 1990s and early 2000s alongside Ring (1998) and The Grudge (2002). It remains one of the two films for which director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is most highly regarded, the other being his earlier Cure (1997).

In a fascinating forty minute-odd interview on Arrow’s new, extras-stuffed release Kurosawa describes Pulse as a rehash of Ring. That observation doesn’t spring immediately to mind. Ring is about a VHS videotape, a death threat by phone and a deadly ghost named Sadako who crawls creepily out of a TV set. Pulse is about internet and mobile phone images before present day smartphones with their image-sending capabilities became commonplace. People seeing these images slowly lose their grip on reality and vanish into thin air by for example turning into a stain which then falls off the wall as little particles to be blown away on an air current.… Read the rest

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Wife Of A Spy (Supai no Tsuma, スパイの妻)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2020 – Japan – 115m

****1/2

A Japanese businessman’s wife decides to help her husband after discovering he is passing inflammatory state secrets to the Americans – out on MUBI in the UK and Ireland on Wednesday, September 8th

1940, Kobe, Japan. British silk trader John Fitzgerald Drummond is arrested by the Kenpetai then released thanks in part to his friend and business associate Yusaku Fukuhara (Issey Takahashi from Shin Godzilla, Hideaki Anno, 2014; Kill Bill Vols 1 & 2, Quentin Tarantino, 2003 & 4; Whisper Of The Heart, Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995), who defends him against Officer Taiji Tsumori (Masahiro Higashide from Foreboding, 2017; Before We Vanish, 2017; Creepy, 2016 – all Kiyoshi Kurosawa), a childhood friend of Yusaku’s wife Satoko (Yu Aoi from Killing, Shinya Tsukamoto, 2018; Journey To The Shore, Kurosawa, 2015 and much else). (Europeans are systematically being arrested, with the exception of Axis power nationals Germans and Italians.)

As Fukuhara and his nephew Fumio Takeshita (Ryota Bando) travel abroad to Manchuria, Satako invites Taiji to her house for a whisky, but once there he berates her for the drink being Western- not Japanese-made and suggests she should wear traditional Japanese clothes rather than Western dresses.… Read the rest

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To The Ends Of The Earth (Tabi No Owari Sekai No Hajimari, 旅のおわり、世界のはじまり)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2019 – Japan – 120m

****

As a Japanese TV journalist works with a Japanese camera crew in Uzbekistan, she meditates on her life and career – from the BFI London Film Festival 2019 and the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2019 – and from Wednesday, November 11th on MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Yoko (Atsuko Maeda) is a TV journalist working with a production company trying to find magazine format stories as they travel around Uzbekistan. None of them speak Uzbek, so they rely on a local interpreter Temur (Adiz Rajabov). When not shooting, Yoko explores the local city.

The prodigious Kiyoshi Kurosawa is best known for his horror films Cure (1997) and Pulse/Kairo (2001) yet has dabbled in a wide variety of genres. This one is, for want of a better description, a travelogue with a hint of a musical. The heroine desperately wants to be a singer, but has found herself in the job of roving TV presenter – not exactly what she wanted to do, but it’s certainly show business. She wonders if she’s lost her way. Her boyfriend Ryo who we never see is a firefighter working back at Tokyo harbour with whom she periodically communicates by text.… Read the rest

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Beautiful New Bay Area Project

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2013 – Japan – 29m

****

A company director steals a woman worker’s name tag and she fights and kickboxes him and his people to get it back – currently on MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa

A young man (Emoto Tasuku) is president of the company he has inherited from his father. His right hand man encourages him to pitch on a development project on the side of the river. He hangs out on a construction site and watches the workers go about their jobs. He is particularly taken with woman worker Takako (Mita Moa).

So much so that he tries to strike up a conversation with her, but she ignores him. Indeed, she goes out of her way to vanish from his sight to where he can’t find her. So he later in her full view steals her name tag from a board and hides it in his office. He instructs his security that if the woman appears in his building, she is to be thrown out.

That sets up the final ten plus minutes of the short in which to access his office and her purloined name tag she must physically kickbox her way past several guards to fight him for the tag.… Read the rest

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Creepy (Kuripi: Itsuwari no rinjin, クリーピー 偽りの隣人)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 130m

****

Currently on BFI Player as part of 21st Century Japan, MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Eureka Video Dual Format BluRay/DVD.

The following review originally appeared in Funimation UK.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s new crime thriller Creepy draws on Vertigo, Psycho and Audition.

The latest film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa to receive a UK cinema release is an extraordinary and highly original crime thriller with more than a passing nod to two better known Alfred Hitchcock films. Its opening reworks that of Vertigo (1958) while certain later narrative elements owe much to Psycho (1960) although not the parts of that film which are usually aped or recycled in other movies. It also recalls Takashi Miike’s notorious Audition (1999) in its overall structure. Yet despite these clear influences, Creepy is very much its own film.

Vertigo‘s first scene opens with the rung of a ladder grasped moments afterwards by a human hand. This develops into a chase sequence in which the vertigo of Detective ‘Scottie’ Ferguson (James Stewart) causes a cop to fall to his death. Creepy‘s first scene opens with bars over a window.… Read the rest

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Journey To The Shore (Kishibe no tabi, 岸辺の旅)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2015 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 127m

****

Currently on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) as part of 21st Century Japan, MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Eureka Video Dual Format BluRay/DVD.

Review published in All The Anime.

Loner Mizuki (Fukatsu Eri) is alone one evening when her husband Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano) appears out of a dark corner into the light as if through a door. There doesn’t seem to be anything odd about this even though as she says, “it’s been three years”. “I’m dead,” he affirms. “In the sea off Toyama. My body’s been eaten by crabs. You wouldn’t find it even if you searched.”

Before departing, the dead come to terms with their death and help those close to them do the same.

This quiet, subtle, underplayed affair works as a gentle romance… Read the rest

Currently on BFI Player (extended free trial offer here) as part of 21st Century Japan, MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Eureka Video Dual Format BluRay/DVD.

Review published in All The Anime.

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Foreboding (Yocho, 予兆 散歩する侵略者)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2017 – Japan – 140m

*****

Loving the alien. Again. Japanese director reshapes his earlier Before We Vanish into an effective drama which plays out as an edge of the seat, sci-fi alien invasion thriller – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2018

This is not exactly a remake, not exactly a reboot, not exactly a sequel. Most definitely a companion piece, though, and arguably the more effective of the two movies. And apparently, an edit of the director’s five-part series for Japanese satellite station Wowow, although it feels like a (well over two hours long) standalone feature. Kiyoshi Kurosawa revisits Before We Vanish / Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (2017) for another story about the aliens clad in human bodies who steal concepts from people’s minds by touching a finger to a forehead E.T. (Steven Spielberg, 1982) style prior to a full scale invasion of Earth.

Where previously the director took the material and threw a cornucopia of different elements at it, this time round his efforts feel much more thought through and the resultant film far more consistent overall – a creepy and unsettling sci-fi paranoia thriller grounded in compelling, character-driven human drama.

Kurosawa builds his reinvented narrative round shop floor worker Etsuko (Kaho) whose friend Miyuki is going mad because of the strange presence in her home.… Read the rest