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Real ("Riaru")

Quebec Premiere
  • Japan
  • 2013
  • 126 mins
  • DCP
  • Japanese
  • English (subtitles)
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“Kurosawa remains a high priest of the eerie and unexplainable” - Chris Cabin, SLANT

« Le film d'un immense poète, et un très grand film sur l'imaginaire. » - Nicolas Bardot, FILM DE CULTE

In the serene, clinical and ever-subtly crumbling near-future, an experimental technology called “sensing” has been developed, allowing people to visit the subconscious mind of their comatose relatives. When his longtime lover Atsumi (Haruka Ayase) slips into a coma following an inexplicable and abrupt suicide attempt, Koichi (Takeru Sato, RUROUNI KENSHIN) resorts to the technology, hoping to investigate the reasons that drove her to suicide. Once there, Koichi discovers she is caught in a loop, preoccupied with meeting her deadlines as a manga illustrator, and recalling the lost childhood drawing of a plesiosaurus. There, her ghastly manga creations haunt Koichi and strikingly uncanny projections of human beings, known as “philosophical zombies”, roam free. A world of foggy boundaries and strange weather phenomena, this psychic realm seems to crumble a little bit more with every visit, and it isn’t long before it begins bleeding into Koichi’s everyday life, and strange visions appear before him.

If reminiscent of 2011’s VANISHING WAVES on a surface level, REAL proves quintessential Kurosawa in every aspect — a film in which the Escher-like subconscious mindscape of a loved one becomes a spirit-laden underworld to explore. If the world presented here is as wide open as his previous films were claustrophobic, this allows for Kurosawa’s mise-en-scène to be as ample and foreboding as ever, an exciting, luminous answer to the J-horror genre and the fever dreams of apocalypse the director pioneered in masterpieces such as CURE and CHARISMA, here filtered by way of the science-fiction melodrama. Fan favourite Joe Odagiri, character actor Yutaka Matsushige (IT’S ME, IT’S ME) and relentless up-and-comer Shota Sometani (HIMIZU, LESSON OF THE EVIL) round up the star-studded cast. With this, Kurosawa creates a world of bizarre, surreal, supremely beautiful artifice and, as the boundaries between the real and the subconscious start to blur, REAL offers some of the most memorable imagery of his entire body of work.

That the key to a world so perpetually on the brink of destruction is a drawing of a long-extinct dinosaur proves fitting as the film evolves from a psychological ghost story to a strange reverse drama of childhood memories resurfaced. Though bright and drenched in sunlight glimpsed at through thick grey fog, Koichi and Atsumi’s journey to find each other is ultimately one through a haunting, sinuous labyrinth. Like them, we invite you to get lost in a film that lingers in the mind long after it is done.

— Ariel Esteban Cayer