Recently I saw a couple movies by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Cure and Bright Future. Clearly they made me think or I wouldn't be writing about them. As a brief, spoiler free, outline. Cure (1999) is about a rash of murders in Tokyo, all committed by different people, and apparently for no reason, but all cut a deep X into the chest and neck of their victims in the exact same manner. The story centers on the detective responsible for investigating the case, and a mysterious, yet sinister young man named Mamiya, who comes into contact with each murderer shortly before they commit this murder. Bright Future (2003) is a little bit harder to define, it centers on two young workers in a factory with dead end jobs, and their poisonous jellyfish, and the estranged father of one of them. I can't really get into more detail than that.
Kurosawa really has an eye for color and light. It's not that he films extraordinarily beautiful things, but that he makes ordinary things seem beautiful. It's hard to explain, but there it is. Furthermore, although Cure is a genre film, thriller/horror movie, the structure of both films are so aimless, and yet absorbing, that pretty much anything could happen at any moment. There's very little build up to important events, even murders, which makes it perhaps truer to life, but in some ways much more disturbing.
Both films also center around the interplay between two characters, in the case of Cure the detective and Mamiya and Nimura and Arita in Bright Future. In both cases, one of the characters is somewhat otherworldly, functioning by a different logic than the rest of the world. And estranged from society to a great degree. The depiction of conventional society is usually rather unsympathetic, and one gets the idea that the director himself is none too sympathetic with ordinary society. However malignant or inexplicable this character, he usually projects a great amount of self knowledge and self confidence. The other character, the detective or Nimura, is, by contrast, fundamentally not at peace with the world and faced with a dilemma that will significantly impact their life.
Both films are pretty challenging to watch, and their endings are somewhat ambiguous. Particularly Cure, by the end of it, I had no idea what the hell was going on. However, the director is very good at building a persuasive world. Which stays with you, even if the ending isn't particularly tangible or understandable.
Of the two, Bright Future resonated the most with me. Perhaps this is because its central character is a directionless 24 year old who doesn't know what to do with his life or something like that. Interestingly, my mother thought Cure starring a middle-aged detective was more accessible, perhaps it's a matter of perspective. Both films are also about events which have the potential to change the world, whether it be a meme of murder, or the adaptation of a deadly jellyfish from saltwater to freshwater. Whether they change the world for good or for worse is almost immaterial. The change is what is important.