Lee Hyun-min, who works reconstructing faces from skull, quits his work in a institute to stay with his Beta-allergic daughter Jin that was submitted to a transplant of heart by the ... See full summary »
Two sexually energized young women who live in a high-rise apartment building happen one day to spy from their window a mother and son making love in the apartment across from theirs. They ... See full summary »
Based on a play by Hisashi Inoue, it focuses on the sufferings of the survivors of Hiroshima. The film takes place during 4 days in the summer of 1948, as the ghost of her father visits ... See full summary »
Kiyoshi Kurosawa's 1999 masterpiece, Barren Illusion, is a razor-sharp dissection of contemporary Japanese culture which depicts its subject as being so devoid of its own identity that it's almost completely co-opted by mundane Western artifacts. In scene after scene--sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly--Kurosawa shows objects with obvious English language markers as critical components of required activity in day-to-day lives. And an all-Japanese music group intermittently shows up pounding on an assortment of Brazilian drums to emphatically demonstrate their (read, the culture's) need to immerse themselves in something completely different from what they are.
To emphasize this more dramatically, Kurosawa has the male lead, a sometime musician, occasionally fade in and out of his surroundings, as though a being who senses intelligently and who, at the same time, is an integral component of his culture, could not (or, perhaps, should not) exist if the culture itself has so little identity. In Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry a character becomes blurred on screen, but that was a psychological observation linked to the individual's personality. Kurosawa's disappearing act is quite different, much more emphatically connecting the individual to his culture.
There is no real plot in the film, but the intelligence Kurosawa brings to bear is so powerful, a plot is not necessary--nor would it work. He frequently has his characters repeat the same banal action in the same scene (stamping postal documents, kicking a balloon around), indicating much more than a lack of imagination. It is, Kurosawa says, the sterility of a culture that engenders repetitive, non-thinking (i.e., sterile) behavior.
The female lead, a postal worker, is shown involved in activities (in two different scenes) which surely would result in her death--jumping off a building and being severely beaten by a gang of thugs. Yet in each case, she's shown in the immediately following scene alive and whole. How can one die when one does not really live?
This is a brilliant work, very highly recommended. It's a shame that none of Kurosawa's work is available in the U.S. on DVD or video. Rumor has it that Cure, another superb film, will be available in Summer 2002 domestically on DVD.
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