Saturday, April 11, 2009
Kiyoshi Kurosawa's The Guard from the Underground (1992)
Akiko (Makiko Kuno) is beginning her new job on the same day that a former sumo wrestler is being released from prison for killing two people. Akiko's job is with a company's new division, art acquisition, and her expertise is needed on which paintings to buy, Chagall or Cezanne ("Is this a good investment?"). A new security guard begins working at Akiko's company and he's got a crush on Akiko. "Have you seen the new guard? He's quite big."Kiyoshi Kurosawa's The Guard from the Underground (1992) is a little-known film from the director of Cure (1997), Charisma (1999), and Kairo (2001). The humor of the film is very dry and the acting, although very good from all involved, is low-key. Kurosawa's camera isn't frenetic; he prefers the still shot while playing within the frame with light and shadow and movement in the foreground to the background and vice versa. Almost ten years later, Kurosawa would perfect that style of filming in Kairo, masterfully. Since Kairo, his style has changed again in another direction.Guard, however, is a terrific film, especially the final third. In fact, it is almost as if the third act sneaks up on the viewer. Slowly and surely, Guard simmers and then comes to a roaring boil. The guard goes on a rampage in the office building and Hatsunori Hasegawa, as Hyodo, Akiko's boss, appears in the film's best scene. Hyodo attempts to coerce the key to the exit from the guard. In an equally cool fashion, he runs away as fast as he can. The humor is unique, as are the visuals. I hadn't seen this one in a decade and was glad to revisit it. One of the most interesting mixes of horror and comedy.