Monday, August 11, 2014

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's REAL


What begins as a craftily gendered psychodrama about the creative and proprietary purgatory of the Creative person (otherwise known as the mind), brashly impinged upon by the active presence of a non-creative lover, a corporate-world scion, suddenly turns into a gender-ambivalent screed against unrepentant corporate interests brushing off their doing by relegating it to the fog of a forgotten, irretrievable past.

The film's lingering effect of whiplash is aggravating, no doubt, attested to by the film's mixed to downright hostile reception.  It is a film cleaved in two, and all conceivable claims of a fully-intentional structural gameplay, or a sly, cunning design, are immediately bucked by the palpable painful experience and listlessness of sitting through the increasingly banal and arbitrary second half, marred in the conventions of the puzzle film.  It is a show of clumsiness that is quite unfortunate - one can say, rather Hooperian.  (A grandiose plea for toleration amidst creative over-exertion.)

I unfortunately cannot hold Kurosawa to being quite above such guilelessness, for often, such as in Retribution, such as in Tokyo Sonata, such as in Pulse, he succumbs too readily to mechanics of genre, each and every one of those films being hampered by a somewhat over-delineating final act.  Never so much as in Real, though, has his story failed him, and it is with this notion that one wonders how much his screenplay follows or strays from the source material from which it was adapted.

But the first half is so strong and fully realized, Kurosawa's mise en scene clearly solidified beyond a crystal point and formally polished to a diamond-like precision in order to present a dream world, that I am tempted to look at Real as two films, the initial Kurosawa's excellent dream-state domestic and workplace drama (dipping into the mind of a neurotic female manga artist), the tail-end film his negation of such a self-indulging and self-identifying psychological study by suddenly serving a glaringly commercial sci-fi/mystery story - quite suddenly sexless (which is meant relatively, considering Kurosawa's rather chaste cinema; in any case, the first half's quasi-femme fatale is quite irresolutely stunted), but slyly doubling as a more-petulant-than-ever "vomitation" of Kurosawa's environmentalist penchant.  I'd like to say that Kurosawa is quite literally eating two cakes... and if one half is nigh unforgivable, and together it is something unfeasible as a satisfying experience, he's still satisfying instincts that produce two such separately communicative halves, despite the first half being ostensibly "undone" by the surfaces of story.  Can, perhaps, Kurosawa in the end be hawking a final social moralism so critical that not even the female gender should get a story benefit out of it?  That may be pushing it, but for the viewer, the film's holistic bisection guarantees for us a viewing experience almost equally bisected: enjoy one half and then tolerate the rest of it.

Kurosawa and his daft sci-fi endeavor ultimately conclude that the only way to escape an eroding industrial future is to escape to the mind, aided by a team of scientist boogeymen/angels, who, in another of the film's baffling subplots, practice strange bedside manner and may or may not have secretive motivations never made clear.  Real so exists as a loud curiosity, simply for being Kurosawa's most large-scale, outwardly mainstream and fully-furnished production: it is certainly weird enough, and its outrageous plesiosaur-filled climax is actually a minor balm in its deflationary latter-half slide.