Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Creepy is too illogical to be arresting (film review)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the director of the final film I viewed
at the 2016 Hong Kong International Film Festival

Creepy (Japan, 2016)
- Screening as part of the HKIFF's Galas program
- Kiyoshi Kurosawa, director and co-scriptwriter (with Chihiro Ikeda)
- Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yuko Takeuchi, Ryoko Fujino

Approximately two weeks after the 40th Hong Kong International Film Festival opened at the Hong Kong Cultural Center with screenings of Chongqing Hot Pot (which I forewent watching) and Trivisa (which I did check out), it officially came to a close with respected auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Creepy, whose Asian premiere I attended over at Sha Tin Town Hall.  

Over the course of that film-filled fortnight, I saw a number of cinematic gems (with Atom Egoyan's Remember topping my list of HKIFF offerings that I got the most out of viewing).  But while it would have been nice to have ended the fest on a high note, its Closing Film sadly turned up to be more of an anticlimactic miss than hit as far as I was concerned.

Creepy begins intriguingly enough, with Koichi (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a police detective with a particular interest in psychopaths, in an interrogation room interviewing one such criminal.  But after the captive contrives to escape and take a hostage, Koichi's subsequent attempts to deal with him turns out so badly that the cop decides to turn in his badge and opt for a safer life as a university lecturer (in criminal psychology) with a house in a quiet suburb with his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi). 

Encouraged by a department colleague and particularly after a visit by a former police colleague (Masahiro Higashide) seeking his help, Koichi nevertheless soon lets curiosity get the better of him again and becomes involved in the investigation of an unsolved case involving a teenaged girl (Haruna Kawaguchi) whose parents and younger brother disappeared without a trace one day and remain missing six years on.  On the other hand, he appears negligently uninterested in how Yasuko is adapting to their new neighborhood, whose residents appear to be on the unfriendly -- even creepy -- side, and what she gets up to during the many hours she and he appear to spend apart. 

At the post-screening Q&A session, director Kurosawa told the audience via a translator that: "One of my concerns with doing this movie was about the concept, and the idea, and the functioning of the Japanese family, which is going through a lot of changes — and not all of them are for the good. The family is falling apart, and this is something we also wanted to address in this movie"; with the childless Koichi and Yasuko's household coming under focus but also that in the house next door headed by Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa), who both Koichi and Yasuko initially felt bothered by, yet continued interacting with him and doing such as having him and his schoolage daughter Mio (Ryoko Fujino) over for dinner one evening.   

Early on, the interactions between Yasuko and Nishino in particular looked to play on cultural stereotypes involving many Japanese tending to err on the side of politness and not quite knowing how to deal with socially awkward -- or even just plain demanding -- people they encounter.  At some point though, much of the behavior depicted in Creepy crosses from the realm of credibility into improbability and nightmarish delusion; with the result that this supposed psychological thriller went from being atmospheric and suspenseful to bafflingly, irritatingly and disappointingly illogical as far as I was concerned.

At one point during the post-screening Q&A, Creepy's helmer (who also had co-scripted this film adaptation of a prize-winning novel by Yutaka Maekawa) admitted that he himself found it hard to understand how the piece's main villain could affect people's behavior so much but just knew that such individuals did exist in society.  I have to admit to finding this a startling admission on Kurosawa's part -- and think that the director not finding a need to provide explanations for certain key actions in the film weakened it considerably.    

My rating for this film: 5.5

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