Video Essay. Proximity—Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s "Creepy"

Exploring how the director finds the perfect bridge between the conventions of everyday life and horrific and melodramatic events.
Cristina Álvarez López, Adrian Martin

The 24th entry in an on-going series of audiovisual essays by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin. MUBI will be showing Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Creepy (2016) from August 5 - September 4, 2017 in the United States.

NOTE: No essential element of the plot of Creepy is divulged or spoilt in this video essay or the accompanying text below.

Hubert Niogret, in his review of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy in Positif (July/August 2017), suggests: “There is always, in this director’s work, a particular view of social behaviour in this country of Japan where rules are numerous – above all when it comes to politeness, and the civil exchanges between individuals.”  

Niogret also notes that, beyond the “V-cinema” period (1994-1998) of relatively cheap, quickly made films within the genres of horror, fantasy and ghost tales, Kurosawa’s more recent works tend to introduce their supernatural elements (when these exist) only gradually and indirectly.  

Indeed, both the TV series Penance (2012) and Creepy stress, at least at the outset, a particular quality of quasi-soap opera banality—in their settings, situations, and everyday behaviors. That is, until other, darker currents make their presence felt. 

In this audiovisual essay on Creepy, we isolate one element of its rich fabric: the subtle but sure violation of those daily ‘rules of politeness,’ and how they set the fiction in motion. Kurosawa finds the perfect bridge between such conventions of everyday life and the more horrific and melodramatic events that are to follow: when the codes of civil exchange are blurred or confused, the possibility of a malevolent trance-hypnosis enters, transforming everything. 

Shigehiko Hasumi has praised the work of his former student by claiming: “Kiyoshi Kurosawa always finds the right distance from which the camera can observe the scene.” This means more than that the direction is always economical and lucid. Rather, the camera expresses the deepest logic of events by either mimicking or violating the reigning social conventions of distance or proximity between people. The more that the everyday world comes off its axis, the more elaborate and expressionistic his style becomes. Creepy offers, in this regard, a true lesson in cinema.

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