By John Berra
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Sakuma even calls Mamiya a dendoshi (missionary), not a criminal. The jellyfish in Bright Future (Akarui mirai, 2003) wonderfully floats on the border between being a monster and being a saviour. Such ambiguities with regard to characterization seep into Kurosawa’s depictions of what is supposed to be real in the narrative. The editing and narrative structure at the end of Cure, for instance, not only renders such spaces as the old wooden hospital building ambiguous, we never being sure whether they exist or not, but even make such supposedly real events as Takabe’s bringing his wife to the mental hospital or Sakuma’s visit to Mamiya’s apartment uncertain.
Japan underwent a great demographic shift from country to city during the middle of the twentieth century, and, by the end of the film, both Setsuko and Ayako are living in the city. Although their relocations were dictated by the employment of their male partners, the city is positioned as the site of the modern nuclear family: a unit in which women hold a more equitable stake than they did in the feudal extended family system which had previously worked to deny them of so many basic rights. ”’3 Whilst this may have been true of many of her most famous roles as an actress, her finest works as a film-maker, The Eternal Breasts (Chibusa yo eien nare, 1955) and Girls of Dark (Onna bakari no yoru, 1961), both feature lead female protagonists with an openness to their sexuality and a somewhat foggier moral code than that of the characters which Tanaka herself was renowned for playing.
It only takes another ten minutes to reveal the murderers and for the teacher to claim her retribution. In most murder mysteries, that would be the plot. For Nakashima, it is just the introduction. The film stars one of Japan’s screen sweethearts (Takako Matsu) in a role beyond anything that she has ever undertaken before. Matsu, whose 17-year career has embraced nine albums and more than sixty acting roles – from the kabuki stage to the cheery maid in Yoji Yamada’s The Hidden Blade (Kakushi ken oni no tsume, 2004) to the voice of boy hero Wataru in anime Brave Story (Bureibu Sutōrī, 2006), is transformed into an avenging angel in sensible shoes.