Friday, March 2, 2012
Review: Pulse/Kairo (2001)
Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Starring: Haruhiko Katô
Synopsis: Japanese university students investigate a series of suicides linked to an Internet Web cam that promises visitors the chance to interact with the dead.
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed Pulse, it is a slow paced film that beautifully demonstrates the disconnection of life in (and outside of) Japan both literally and metaphorically. The story is rather disjointed and non-linear, so a thorough synopsis is actually rather difficult, but what you need to know is that at the same time that men and women are committing suicide or disappearing, a student encounters a website offering to show him footage of the dead and a series of doors sealed with red tape are becoming more and more frequent. There are two main story threads that weave this movie together, the story of Ryosuke Kawashima, (played by Haruhiko Katô) a business student who first encounters the ghost website, and after it persistently appears on his computer tries to make sense of where it has come from and why it keeps forcing itself onto his computer, and Michi Kudo (played by Kumiko Asô), a young florist, who witnesses the disintegration and suicide of two of her colleagues and stumbles upon the red taped doors. The two tales circle one another for much of the movie before colliding with one another in time for the film's third act.
There are large gaps within both individual stories and the film in its entirety which made it difficult to follow the direct plot of the film, however the story is easily recognisable. In the early days of the general public using the internet, people were connecting with more frequency on websites, chat-boards and online forums, however as their online presence grew their physical offline presence decreased. They began to shrink away from the real world piece by piece before all that is left is a mere shadow of their former self. Loneliness has long been an element utilised in horror cinema and literature, but Kiyoski Kurosawa managed to take an exciting new aspect of technology (in 2001) and twist it into something dark and scary that will lead to our downfall. Considering what we know about people's online presence nowadays and their addictions to Facebook/twitter/YouTube and preferences for virtual interactions, I found the focus of this movie to be intelligent, philosophical in tone and ahead of its time. The cinematography, scripting and sounds choices equally reflected the isolation and loneliness of this story creating a cohesive film that I found a real pleasure to watch.
The disjointed aspect of production made following the plot incredibly difficult at times, but this really is a film that places the importance on the metaphysical elements rather than the plot, and those elements definitely are clear. It means the film is a real slow burner, however it isn't devoid of scares or moments of faster pace. There are some deliciously spooky moments involving creepy Japanese ghosts with tentacle-style floating hair or who walk endlessly from one end of a room to another as they flicker in and out like a stuttering computer system.
This is probably one of the more impressive J-Horror films I've ever encountered. Because of the ambiguous story, non-linear narrative and the unconventional pacing I'd hesitate to recommend this to anyone unfamiliar with this style of film, however it is a film I think the right audience will appreciate for the beauty, philosophy and impeccable cinematography and directorial decisions.
4 out of 5 red tape sealed doors.