• To the Ends of the Earth

    To the Ends of the Earth

    ★★★★

    Social alienation plagues reporter Yoko as she's sent to journey around Uzbekistan for her lightweight TV show; any expectation that a sense of freedom can be attained in a foreign land proves futile when each wonder discovered is shrouded in apathy or uncertainty, resulting in her slipping further into dissociation. She cannot shake the existential fear that she's a stranger in her own mind, unable to discern who she really is or if she'll ever find a place to belong.…

  • Before We Vanish

    Before We Vanish

    ★★★½

    I'm always impressed by Kurosawa's ability to make familiar ideas and tropes feel fresh by exploring them from an unconventional standpoint. This is an alien invasion which de-emphasises the abject terror and intense action often found in the subgenre for something a little more introspective, pondering what makes us human through the concepts we consider important in our everyday lives. Consequently, the global catastrophe is felt on an intimate scale. It touches frequently on the ways we choose to communicate…

  • Journey to the Shore

    Journey to the Shore

    ★★★½

    The gentleness present in this tender ghost story is something you wouldn't usually expect to find in a Kiyoshi Kurosawa feature, but it proves to be extremely fitting when dealing with the different ways that people handle the grieving process and come to terms with mortality. We follow a woman whose deceased husband returns to show her the lost souls he visited after dying, turning a physical journey into a spiritual one as she hopes to find closure through the…

  • Bad Genius

    Bad Genius

    ★★★½

    Didn't expect this quasi-heist thriller set around test-taking to be able to generate so much excitement via such a tedious exercise, focusing on a straight-A student who comes up with an elaborate plan to help her fellow pupils cheat which only seems to increase in scale. Exams are a fundamentally flawed way to grade intellect in a world where money dominates everything and that's something portrayed astutely throughout this narrative; the playing field has never been level, the rich can…

  • Creepy

    Creepy

    ★★★★

    While this may lack the formidable dread that made Kiyoshi Kurosawa's earlier horror-tinged works so impactful, his meticulous direction and thematic interest in social malaise remain just as gripping. The story concerns an ex-profiler and his wife trying to start afresh, swiftly splitting into two overlapping threads as he's drawn to an unsolved murder case and she's intrigued by their oddball neighbour. It proves to be a clever set-up since the darkness found in the investigation begins to spread to…

  • Burning

    Burning

    ★★★★★

    The highest praise you can give to a film like Burning is that it continues to resonate in your mind long after it has concluded. It remains enigmatic in a way that's endlessly enthralling, even after multiple viewings, thanks to its immense thematic density providing so many routes to explore; it feels like each development reveals new meanings, minor details effectively demand further reflection and numerous implications lie behind every single expression or gesture. The ambiguity is perfectly judged, offering…

  • Tokyo Sonata

    Tokyo Sonata

    ★★★★½

    There's such profound sadness enveloping this domestic drama about a family unit that begins to unravel once its patriarch loses his job, their struggles a microcosm of a wider societal crisis. It's heartbreaking to witness this household trying desperately to keep the illusion of normality going as their comparable pain tears them apart, the way they are regarded by those outside their orbit mattering more to them than their own feelings which are left to deteriorate. Each member is damaged…

  • Séance

    Séance

    ★★★★

    Once a cycle of deception commences it becomes increasingly difficult to control, something a psychic housewife discovers when her existential fear that normality means irrelevance drives her to convince her husband to use a kidnapping incident for their own gain and inadvertently dismantles the vacant life they've built. This is a morality tale where every dishonest action and selfish thought is haunted by shadows from just beyond the characters peripheral vision, stalking them in the places that should be the…

  • Pulse

    Pulse

    ★★★★

    Equally unsettling and melancholy in the way it portrays isolation leading to all-encompassing despair. This is a ghost story where the anguish remains even after death, a collective malaise represented by a suicide epidemic that causes the deceased to continue existing with their oppressive sorrow intact and infect those still living. The emptiness seems to be inescapable, dooming everyone to an afterlife where loneliness becomes eternal. What's so chilling is that the world displayed is already in a decaying state…

  • The Green Knight

    The Green Knight

    ★½

    Basically a series of visually glossy, increasingly monotonous set-pieces that would be best described as hollow. What's meant to be taking place underneath these ornate surfaces feels muddled, stifling a supposedly spiritual journey since we're never able to sense the changes that the main character is undergoing; that's a pretty significant issue as it's the crux of the entire story. It can't really explore the ambitious concepts it clearly wishes to like accepting death through virtue and reckoning with the…

  • Eyes of the Spider

    Eyes of the Spider

    ★★★★

    The companion piece to Serpent's Path which dispenses with the actual revenge taking early on and instead places focus on the mystifying emptiness that arrives in the aftermath. Show Aikawa stars once again as a man who carries out his warped justice and finds that it hasn't brought him any closer to finding catharsis, something that makes his return to a seemingly ordinary lifestyle feel totally meaningless. He swiftly finds himself swept into a peculiar criminal syndicate and from there…

  • Serpent's Path

    Serpent's Path

    ★★★★

    My word was this bleak at times, even for Kurosawa; a concise revenge tale that seems pretty straightforward initially, only for the unorthodox touches and disturbing implications to increase the further it progresses. While not quite occuping the same space as his more overtly horror-inspired works, the more grounded premise allows the similar focus on external and internal decay to reverberate just as powerfully. It feels chillingly nihilistic, even with the creative splashes of deadpan humour, in how it presents…