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Karisuma (1999)

A seasoned detective is called in to rescue a politician held hostage by a lunatic. In a brief moment of uncertainty, he misses the chance for action. Leaving his job and family without ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Satoshi Nakasone (as Ren Ôsugi)
Jun Fubuki ...
Akira Ohtaka ...
Tatsuo Tsuboi
Yutaka Matsushige ...
Sachiko Meguro ...
Masayuki Shionoya ...
Young Officer
Kôichi Imamura ...
Young Man
Yôji Tanaka ...
Atsushi Nishida ...
Masaaki Nagata ...
Diet Member
Setchin Kawaya ...


A seasoned detective is called in to rescue a politician held hostage by a lunatic. In a brief moment of uncertainty, he misses the chance for action. Leaving his job and family without explanation, he makes his way to a mountain forest, where there is a peculiar tree called charisma. Should it be destroyed or protected? People stand divided over this one tree. Written by amirmu

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Release Date:

26 February 2000 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Charisma  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Featured in Kiyoshi Kurosawa: Broken Circuits (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

Restore the rules of the world or destroy them?
11 March 2011 | by See all my reviews

Charisma begins with a conundrum that intrigues me, a hostage situation where a cop points a gun at a young man holding at gunpoint a politician with the demands, scribbled on a scrap of paper, "to restore the rules of the world", and will the cop carry out justice or will he recognize another kind of justice already unfolding in front of him. The cop walks away, because he feels sympathy for both victim and victimizer as he later reveals to his superior, and the film quickly shows that non-action or a refusal to be involved in the world, compassion from a distance, has dire consequences.

Kurosawa seems to be concerned here with the law of nature, the ways of the world. If life is a game with stakes of life and death, how do we play it and how does it reflect on the universe. The phrase "the rules of the world" is repeated later in the film, it's a linchpin holding themes together, but how does the film pursue this broad philosophy, does it poetically infer something important?

The cop protagonist is brought into a mysterious forest world, which is threatened to be tipped off balance by a rare toxic tree. It doesn't take a lot to understand that this secluded ecosystem stands for the world at large but I like that Kurosawa readies him for this existential playground by stripping him of manmade identity, this contract established between the individual and society, preparing him for an initiation process where the self will be reinvented, born anew with new perspectives.

It's downhill for me from this point. Kurosawa pursues his argument by a schematic representation, by an obviousness of symbolism, by characters drawn to clearly stand in opposites who literally speak out their role in the film. A character wants to destroy the tree to save the surrounding ecosystem, another wants to protect it because it's unique. We understand this, but they go on to tell the camera.

Kairo's strong card for me is the grand guignol representation of an abstract world, the stage of a horror theater where the self is dissolved. In Charisma, Kurosawa reaches for a similar absence of logic but only as means of formulating logic on a secondary level, by an allegory of "this stands for that". I like the fact that I'm watching a film morally and aesthetically preoccupied, one that tries to grapple with ideas, but it's not a surreal film, and it doesn't evoke a picture of a meaningful world by poetic means, rather it draws one by rational ones.

This illustrates the failure of allegory for me. An allegoric world is an abstraction of a part of the world we recognize, with the abstraction used to concretely talk about that part. The basic means are cryptic as opposed to poetic. Once we grasp the key that abstracts, it's no longer a challenge.

The cop wavers between the two sides, until he settles for a point of view that encompasses both. This balancing act of selective involvement that upsets the rules in the world of the film and brings chaos can be meaningful, if we accept that a new world can only come to pass through the fires of destruction.

Philosophy by means of an allegory makes for a boring film for me, and more, for a film that doesn't stimulate the senses, but invites pen to paper in an effort to decrypt a riddle.

It's a difficult film, but not very bright.

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