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Kairo (Pulse) (2001)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring:
Haruhiko Katô/Ryosuke
Kumiko Aso/Michi
8 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Ghost infested computer viruses + mass suicides + social commentary + the apocalypse = Kairo.
THE LOWDOWN

“Do you want to see a real ghost?”

I’d had never seen any of famed Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s films until Kairo (also known as Pulse) bust my cherry. Well if this flick is any indication of what is filmmography is all about…I’M THERE!

Kairo was as odd watch for my simpleton Westerner self. Its a horror movie in the sense that its filled with frightening ghostly apparitions, dread and spooky events but yet at the same time, boo scares are absent, gore is out the door and there isn’t really a villain here; just a reality that we are asked to accept. You bet your ass I did! If somebody asked me what the picture was about beyond the initial premise I would be somewhat at a loss for words. The film is semi left open to interpretation and what I got out of it is not necessarily what you’ll snatch. With that said; for me, the film was truly about the theme of loneliness. Loneliness in the afterlife (sucks to be a ghost it seems) and loneliness in the land of the living, as technology advances, the more alone we become. Yes I perceived the picture as some odd supernatural social commentary. This was not a straight forward nail biter.

That’s not to say that fear wasn’t on the menu. As opposed to most rock and shock American horror jamborees, Kairo played its card in a singular manner. Instead of jumps and gross outs we get slow, engrossing reveals of the horror at hand, disturbing imagery (all about that dancing specter) and eerie settings. That’s where the horror was derived from here. Will it startle you? That’s your call, me, it gave me the freaking creeps. The distinctive look of the picture backed up the film’s terror factor as well. All felt drab, colorless and draped in dark, menacing shadows. The world of Kairo was not a happy place! No puppy dogs and hookers here! It almost felt like the director (and his DOP for that matter) had a razor blade to his wrist as he shot it, discouraged as to the world he lives in. Finally the latter point did go hand in hand with the odd plot line. All I’ll say is that what starts small goes on to spread wide. What eventually happens and the novel execution in which they communicated it blew me away. WOW!

On the “help I’m lost” side of the dagger, Kairo left me in the dust more than usual in terms of “what the fuck is going on” in this Japanese cookie. Its hard to remains fully involved within a narrative when you’re totally lost and know that you should be understanding the happenings (as opposed to Lynch stuff where you know that you’re not supposed to know shite). Furthermore, I’ll admit it, more physical action and energy spurts in the pacing (the film plays it one note throughout) would’ve been appreciated but that’s my own individual tastes yapping. With that said, I grasped enough to be totally mesmerized by it. Kairo is not for everybody, its slow, confusing and fairly action-less but if you’re in the mood for some existentialism with your glass of blood curling chills, this is a pulse that you might want to feel for (Did I just write that? LAME!)

GORE
Creepy ghosts aside, no gore here, like at all.
ACTING
I watched the film with subtitles and I always find it hard to gauge foreign performances that way. Haruhiko Katô (Ryosuke) and Kumiko Aso (Michi) did fine by me and so did the rest of the cast. Nothing annoyed me or felt un-credible hence I say; good stuff Batman!
T & A
I have a poster of Jenna Jameson sitting snuggly on another girl’s face and tits out, framed on my living room wall. Does that count?
DIRECTING
Armed with a talented cinematographer, Kiyoshi Kurosawa served up a dreary, slow moving and at times fairly stylish display (loved the plane shot). I also dug the quasi subliminal frame jumps and his efficient use of shadows to up the frights.
SOUNDTRACK
The film was often quiet; there wasn’t really a score here. Spine-chilling rumbling sounds and varied low key noises though; we got them in spades. It worked and then some!
BOTTOM LINE
Kairo was an unorthodox, aloof, low key, yet crawl under the skin unsettling ride. It was thought provoking too whereas it had something to say about the loneliness within our society and the one that’s sure to follow once we hit grave (well that’s what I got). It might be too sluggish for some, not eventful enough for others and it’s definitely puzzling, but if you’re in the mood to be challenged and want something different, check it out! Advice: watch it in the dark by yourself…brrr! NOTE: An American remake will be released this year. I’m actually curious to see as to just how much they will “McDonaldlize” it! Cause if they solely repeat this aloof original…there’s no way that it would play well to a John Q audience. NO WAY!
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5:01PM on 06/02/2012
I desperately wanted to like this film based on the good press and word-of-mouth it has received. Now, I won't say that it isn't well made, because it is. Plus, the ghosts were damned creepy and the events were very unsettling.

The problem is that it's just too damned depressing. I got the theme of the film and understood what it set out to achieve. My issue is that it did its job far too well for me. I also agree with Sir Arrow that a little more oomph in places would've served the
I desperately wanted to like this film based on the good press and word-of-mouth it has received. Now, I won't say that it isn't well made, because it is. Plus, the ghosts were damned creepy and the events were very unsettling.

The problem is that it's just too damned depressing. I got the theme of the film and understood what it set out to achieve. My issue is that it did its job far too well for me. I also agree with Sir Arrow that a little more oomph in places would've served the movie quite well. Finally, it just didn't seem to know when to end.

Maybe if I see it again, I'll change my mind. As it stands, I'm in no hurry to do that.
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11:43AM on 05/08/2006

Other Kurosawa flicks to check out

I'm a Kiyoshi Kurosawa fan; I've seen just all his "major" films, except for Charisma, and I should see that one within the week.

My favorite is the non-horror "Bright Future," but that's mainly due to the ending, which I can only describe as transcendent. Its all about young urban ennui, and focuses on some ne'er-do-well adapting killer jellyfish to freshwater. The film has touches of horror-flick goodness in it, but to call this a "scary" film or a "horror" film is pushing it (which,
I'm a Kiyoshi Kurosawa fan; I've seen just all his "major" films, except for Charisma, and I should see that one within the week.

My favorite is the non-horror "Bright Future," but that's mainly due to the ending, which I can only describe as transcendent. Its all about young urban ennui, and focuses on some ne'er-do-well adapting killer jellyfish to freshwater. The film has touches of horror-flick goodness in it, but to call this a "scary" film or a "horror" film is pushing it (which, honestly, outside of Cure and Pulse, seem to be the common tone of all of this Kurosawa's films).

The same goes for his "Doppelgangner," about a guy who meets his double while working on a mind-controled wheel chair (no joke). The last half of this becomes just crazy-insane, and is about as bizzare a twist as, say, "audition" in reverse. "Cure" is good too; think of it as "Seven" gone supernatural, and featuring a killer who may or may not be a hypnotist. Its creepy.

Those are my picks, thus far, the few others I've not seen, "Seance," "Serpent's Path," and "Eyes of the Spider" are difficult to find in the US if not impossible, though I hear my local vid store's getting "Seance" in soon. You can bet I'll be checking that one out too; this man has caught my attention, and I'm wholly entranced by whatever he does.
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