Japanese director sticks to horror’s principles

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Japanese director sticks to horror’s principles

An alien is staring at you from a few steps away. It starts to crawl in your direction. In a few seconds you will be eaten. There’s no way out and the alien is slowly opening its mouth.
This moment, from Ridley Scott’s 1979 film “Alien,” is quintessence of horror films for Japanese director Kurosawa Kiyoshi. “The true color of horror lies in those a few seconds, when a human being feels helpless after realizing that there’s something he can never understand in this world,” said Mr. Kurosawa. He was in Seoul on Wednesday to take part in the opening ceremonies of a retrospective of his work.
When James Cameron had the lead character in “Alien,” played by Sigourney Weaver, fight back and destroy the aliens, nothing could have disappointed Mr. Kurosawa more.
“It totally ruined the horror film. When Sigourney Weaver so swiftly avoids the alien’s attack, it was no longer a great horror film. It was downgraded to a funny action film,” he said.
In his films, Mr. Kurosawa remains true to the bona fide horror film principles, which are well presented in “Seance” and “Doppelganger,” which are in the retrospective.
“Horror films are attractive in that they can be antisocial,” Mr. Kurosawa said. “Horror films can describe something that eludes the morals and regulations of a society, dealing with something that cannot be explained within a normal understanding of things.”
But he does not label himself as a horror film guru. During a career that has spanned 20 prolific years, Mr. Kurosawa, now 48, has ventured into a variety of genres, from hard-boiled action to roman pornography. In the retrospective, he presents 21 films, 13 of which are subtitled in English.
As a cinephile teenager whose best friend was an 8 mm camera, it was natural for Mr. Kurosawa to pursue a career in film.
“I didn’t get any formal education in filmmaking, but I’m pretty much self-taught with my 8mm camera, which was only available for black and white, and short and silent films,” Mr. Kurosawa said.
Following the path of many young directors in the early 1980s, Mr. Kurosawa debuted in film production specializing in roman pornography. After filling the quota of sex scenes, he was free to do what he liked. Thus were born “Kandagawa Wars” and “The Excitement of the Do-Re-Mi-Fa Girl.”
Eventually moving beyond the adult film scene, Mr. Kurosawa kept pursuing something far from the mainstream. He was strongly influenced by acclaimed Western directors such as Roman Polanski and Sam Peckinpah.
“Movies physically are nothing more than images from particles of light reflected on a huge white cloth,” Mr. Kurosawa said, “But what makes a movie in the end is a whole orchestration of light, darkness, sound and the audience. Movies are different from images. Movies should describe the world we live in, reflecting the society.”
For those interested in seeing Mr. Kurosawa’s work but are pressed for time, the director recommends “The Revenge” series, which is subtitled in English.
The retrospective continues until next Friday at the Seoul Art Cinema.

by Chun Su-jin

Tickets are 6,000 won ($5). Seoul Art Cinema, near Insa-dong, is best reached from Anguk Station, exit No. 1, on subway line No. 3. For more information, call (02) 743-6003 or visit www.cinematheque.seoul.kr.
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