Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Film Comment Selects: Retribution (2006)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa hasn't had a film of his released in the states since his two wonderfully quirky 2003 releases, Bright Future and Doppleganger. 2005's Loft popped up at a few festivals (including '06's Film Comment Selects) but soon disappeared from the international marketplace. According to Derek Elley at Variety, it was a DV-lensed horror film about a romance novelist haunted by a mummy. Sounds like a return to his genre roots, albeit an unsuccessful one (although still tapped for a remake, according to Elley).

I'm happy to report that Retribution, while firmly in the J-Horror ghost film genre, stands up to Kurosawa's high standards. The soulfully sullen Koji Yakusho (cleansing the stink of Babel) is Yoshioka, a violent homicide detective who questions his sanity when all the evidence from a recent drowning murder points to himself. Soon similar drownings pop up across Tokyo, deflecting suspicion from Yoshioka, but there's the matter of a spectral woman in a red dress...

The strength of Retribution lies in its impeccable compositions (he's fond of frames within frames here, of doorways and the false frames of mirrors), and in turn how these compositions induce a sense of decay that transcends the central ghost story. Every shot contains a puddle or artfully composed audio of water dripping - all of Tokyo seems about to be drowned. This idea is far more frightening than the woman in red (although I expect Riona Hazuki's inexpressive porcelain doll features to haunt my dreams for a few nights), and expertly put across.

It's Japanese title, Sakebi, means The Scream, and it's no lie. If you have sensitive ears, I'd stay away from this one.

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Blogger Michael J. Anderson said...

K. Kurosawa on Eastwood, from Daily Green Cine: "I would say that right now he is about to surpass his spiritual and technical mentor, Don Siegel. Thanks to Eastwood's guiding hand, it's possible that cinema may be breaking away from a previously completed 'form' and entering completely new territory. That's a remarkable thing."

12:23 PM  

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