Japanese Title: リアル 完全なる首長 竜の日
Romaji: Riaru Kanzen’naru Shuchou Ryuu no Hi
Release Date: June 01st, 2013 (Japan)
Running Time: 127 mins.
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Rokuro Inui (Original Novel)
Starring: Takeru Sato, Haruka Ayase, Jo Odagiri, Miki Nakatani, Shota Sometani, Keisuke Horibe, Kyoko Koizumi, Keisuke Horibe, Yuki Kan
Ramble alert (I ramble because I love the subject!)
I am a big Kiyoshi Kurosawa fan. Massive. I have pretty much bought and reviewed most of his major titles available in the west and not one of them disappointed me. His critically acclaimed drama Tokyo Sonata I consider one of the most important films I have ever seen while I think highly of his divisive experimental film Bright Future. I really love his J-horror like Cure and Retribution which run along more fiendishly intelligent and psychologically disturbing lines than your average horror movie. Even films he rejects I find a lot to like about! Each title contains his unique aesthetics and deliberate approach to his subject matter. I am really excited about 2013 because he has a new film getting a release in Japan and the UK gets two of his 90’s crime thrillers thanks to Third Window Films.
Colour me happy when I caught a new trailer and teaser for his latest film Real. It is a title with a sci-fi edge that reminds me a little of Inception what with its concept of entering a person’s subconscious, tilting camera angles, fantasy creatures, gravity defying stationary and ruined coastal town (Atsumi’s mind is the scene of the crime!). This also looks like a really big-budget title which is something Kurosawa tends not to handle but his critical cachet has never been higher. Check out the trailer!
Here is a shorter teaser released a bit earlier. It’s more action packed:
Koichi (Sato) and Atsumi (Ayase) are childhood friends who have become lovers. Despite this closeness when Atsumi attempts suicide Koichi is at a loss as to what the reason that drove her to do such a thing could be. Now she is in a coma and Koichi needs to find out the reason. Since Koichi is a neurosurgeon he has access to the latest studies and so he takes part in a medical procedure that will allow him to enter Atsumi’s subconscious through her central nervous system.
When he arrives she asks him to find a picture of a plesiosaur she drew as a child. It is the key to a suppressed memory connected to a childhood trauma. Finding this picture will allow Koichi to truly get close to knowing his love.
The first thing to note is that the film is based on the 2011 novel Riaru Kanzen’naru Shuchou Ryuu no Hi, written by Rokuro Inui, which won the grand prize at the 9th Kono Mystery ga Sugoi! as the trailer points out.
The literal title is something like Real: The Day of the Perfect Plesiosaur although my translation may leave a lot to be desired…
リアル 完全なる首長 竜の日
リアル = Katakana for Real
完全なる = Kanji for Revealed/Complete/Perfect
首長竜の日 Ｄａｙ ｏｆ ｐｌｅｓｉｏｓａｕｒ
の日 ‘s day の acts like ‘s 日 = day
Real: The Day of the Perfect Plesiosaur. Upon first seeing the title and the dinosaur in the movie I was a little thrown since I’m used to Kurosawa’s books but some have pointed to Kurosawa adapting a book as some sort low for the director…
Well he has directed a videogame tie in movie and pink films so what’s the big deal? He has made an interesting journey from being blackballed from the industry following a very messy release for Sweet Home in the late 80’s. He then spent the 90’s steadily making everything from TV dramas to v-cinema crime films but his most successful patch was when he started on his run of critically acclaimed low-budget horror films (with Séance, a TV dramas thrown in) which were made on his terms starting with Cure and finishing with Retribution. He then went on to win the Un Certain Regard award at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival for his drama Tokyo Sonata before diving into television with the five-part series Penance, an adaptation of Kanae Minato’s novel.
Adaptation or not I do detect some locations that look familiar from his horror film Retribution. More specifically the cavernous and decrepit police station.
Maybe I’m reading too much but Kurosawa re-uses locations – Pulse has a scene set in a waiting room that can be seen in Séance while certain distinctive streets and urban spaces from Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself and Cure crop up in Tokyo Sonata and Retribution. What about the high rise from Pulse?
It seems that the film has two settings – reality which takes place in an urban landscape (probably Tokyo) and an island rich of foliage which reminds me of Okinawa in the film Vital, the subconscious landscape…
Although it seems that Atsumi’s subconscious is alert to Koichi entry and the two connect, we witness childhood memories of Koichi and Atsumi
Kurosawa likes to work with familiar actors. The cast is genuinely impressive. I write that a lot but I really mean it here. It features some of the best of new talent and veterans. There are solid actors like Keisuke Horibe (Tokyo Gore Police, Love Exposure) and Yuki Kan (Rebirth) and new (at least to me) stars such as the leads Takeru Sato, star of Rurouni Kenshin, and Haruka Ayase, Oppai Volleyball… which I have watched and I enjoyed. Sorry.
Some of the stars might be new to the world of Kiyoshi Kurosawa but there are many who have worked with him across a number of films and these are the ones that I am rather more interested in as it assures me that the acting will be quality!
Miki Nakatani, famous for her performances in Ring 2: Spiral (my first J-horror crush), was the heroine in the underrated J-horror Loft where she was terrorised by yurei in a countryside (more swamp but whatever) retreat. Nakatani is as cold as ice in Zero Focus, an attribute which will be useful for portraying a scientist!
Joe Odagiri, the cool star of Adrift in Tokyo and Mushishi, has worked with Kurosawa in Retribution and Bright Future. In the former he had a small role as a psychologist but his performance was fantastic in a delicious scene where he realises that his patients and he are in a lot of trouble while in the latter he was the engine of the entire thing leading the audience through a tough and experimental film.
Yutaka Atsushige I first saw in One Missed Call but I would wager that his best performance is as Fujimaru in THE GUARD FROM THE UNDERGROUND (the film which got Kurosawa back into mainstream filmmaking following Sweet Home) where he was truly scary. He was also in Charisma, the second film in Kurosawa’s unofficially dubbed Apocalypse Trilogy which includes Cure and Pulse.
Last but certainly not least (because she can never be disregarded) is Kyoko Koizumi, (Survive Style 5+) who had key roles in Tokyo Sonata and Kurosawa’s dorama Penance. Tokyo Sonata is, in my opinion, one of the best Japanese films I have ever seen and she gave a fantastic performance as a housewife struggling to make sense of her family’s messy transition from repression into messy freedom and the chance to start again while in Penance (some of which I have watched), she was unnerving in her role as grieving and vengeful mother.
From the trailer itself it seems Nakatani plays the scientist running the operation which should be a good fit as she can do cold and intelligent very well. Kyoko Koizumi seems to be in the subconscious’ island landscape. Now comes the tricky part. Joe Odagiri and Shota Sometani both appear to be in the real world and seem to be helping run the operation but as the trailer plays on the two both get shot by Harua Ayase! The way the trailer intercuts between a shot of Ayase and Sato shooting makes me think that a plot twist involving her entering his mind and controlling him might be on the cards. I mean, just look at the tag line on the poster…
I will do anything you say. Just open your eyes.
Now that’s a dangerous thing for anybody to say to anyone!
The theme tune comes from Mr Children. When I first heard it in the trailer I was disappointed but it has grown on me since! Mr Children are a pretty big band going since the 80’s and have contributed the theme song to soundtracks for Dororo amongst other films. If you can accept the cheery J-Pop at the end of Pulse, then this is no problem!
Here is a TV special where the actors are interviewed.
Uh… I just re-read what I have written and I have rambled on long enough. Thanks for getting this far. Bonus video!