Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I'm not sure what I think of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s REAL (2013) New York Film Festival 2013

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Real is a poser. It’s not remotely the sort of film that one expects from a director who is best known for dark and brooding films. Its not the sort of film that one would expect after the recent run of films including the masterpiece miniseries Penance. If you know the director and his work the film presents a total and complete confounding of expectations.

I’m not going to go into the plot other than to say the set up involves a young man trying to connect with this girlfriend who is in a coma view something called sensing. Sensing allows properly attuned people to link up and enter each other’s thoughts.

I’m going to leave the plot there for any number of reasons, chief amongst them being that if you know any more than that you’ll start to pull at the various threads before you see the film. The write up for the New York Film Festival gives away too much. If you read it you’ll be able to work it all out for yourself.

My reaction to the film has been mixed and all over the place. Part of the problem is the whole expectation thing above. This film is not what I expected and so there was a bit of disappointment involved. Part of the problem is that the film intentionally or unintentionally references or riffs on any number of earlier films on the subject and in the science fiction genre. My overriding feeling was I had been here before. I’ve never had a sense of that before in a Kurasowa film.

Mostly my reaction to the film was controlled by it not being as well made or tightly plotted as any of the recent Kurasowa films. Actually I think you’d have to go all the way back to the infamous Revenge films which were very loopy and made no sense especially if you look at the second film as a true sequel to the first. This is that sort of a film- its loopy and has its own busted logic. (For the record the second Revenge film is probably the least of all of Kurasowa’s film output). I’m still trying to work out the lapses of logic and weird been there plotting and wondering if Kurasowa did it on purpose or if he thought the story was better than it is. With the Revenge films the movies were thrown together because they could make two movies if they met certain criteria, where I would think that Kurasowa carefully chose the project.

The film feels like the quickies that Kurasowa cranked out in his early career. It looks-intentionally- like some of the digital films that flood the home markets. It’s a look that looks cheap until you realize about fifteen or twenty minutes in is part of the film since the numerous looks mirror the levels of consciousness. The film does look great when it has to.

And now some 24 hours after seeing the film I have no idea what I think. I freely admit that I was one of the many in the audience groaning at some of the twists, laughing at some of the revelations and wondering if Kurasowa was serious about this film ( I mean hadn't he seen other variations on the theme). However in thinking about the film and after talking with it with Mondocurry I’m not sure it’s as “bad” as I thought. Kurasowa seems to be up to something. Certainly it’s a palate cleanse after the darkness of Penance. Certainly its a shaking of his audience to get them to do more than just be passive receptors to his work.

Is it a good film? While it certainly doesn’t belong at the New York Film Festival in that being here forced it to face impossible expectations, it’s not a bad film, not by any stretch of the imagination. My thinking is that they should have flopped this with Penance which played at Film Comment Selects since while this film can stand to be highlighted it doesn’t need the spotlight of a main selection of the New York Film Festival.

Should you see the film? If you go in with an open mind and no expectations, yes. If you’re a fan of the director give it a shot. I can’t say if you’ll like it, I will however say that its worh at least trying.

As for whether or not I like the film I’ll get back to you on that- actually I'm waiting for Mondocurry to finish writing it up so our discussions can continue. .

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