IMDb Rating 6.9 10 1,255


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October 12, 2020


Kôji Yakusho as Noboru Yoshioka
720p.WEB 1080p.WEB
951.04 MB
Japanese 2.0
23.976 fps
104 min
P/S N/A / N/A
1.72 GB
Japanese 2.0
23.976 fps
104 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by pils78 8 / 10 / 10

It'll definitely make you think... (spoilers)

A friend loaned me this on DVD, thinking that it was right up my alley. (He was right.) I haven't seen any other Kiyoshi Kurosawa films but I really enjoyed the way everything wove together in an understated way. There's a lot that is unexplained or jarring, and Kurosawa asks a lot of his audience. Unless you have a strong memory, going back to review scenes is helpful to link everything up. The camera takes a very nonjudgmental and distanced view of the action, which well-suits this story where all the characters seem to have a different opinion of things. The deadpan style reminded me a little of Bunuel or Elia Suleiman, and this film shares that no-holds-barred approach where you never know what will happen next. The film begins with an overworked policeman, Yabuike, who proceeds to botch a hostage situation (the gunman's demand: Restore the Rules of the World). His chief sends him on vacation, and he ends up in a remote woods. There he meets a strange cast of environmental protection authorities, a female botanist, her sadistic sister, a young man who protects a special tree, and an old woman the young man cares for at a closed rest home/asylum(?). Almost all seem interested in the tree (called Charisma), its characteristics, and its place in the forest which is dying all around it. In the course of the film, there are different interpretations expressed and certain battles fought. Throughout, Yabuike tries to make his own peace with this strange environment and its crazy characters. Karisuma lends itself to a variety of symbolic interpretations, and I think Kurosawa rather perceptively skewers modern society's all-too-blinkered view of reality with his depiction of people unable to step outside their own limited perspective and see things totally. Kurosawa also seems interested in the clash of Western individualism with the more Eastern concept of traditionalism and duty in Japanese society. He does this very slyly, having a duty-bound character protecting an individual, and an individualist looking out for the whole. The characters appeal to conceptions of what's "natural" to justify their actions, and it is here with the idea of a natural ecosystems that the film really seems to come together. Much like the forest world around them, the characters, each with specific roles, inhabit a *social* ecosystem, full of competition (and cooperation). But they fail to understand the broader picture of their actions. For actually, both the forest and human worlds are linked in a total ecosystem, which is to say nothing is truly isolated at all. I take that to be the point made in the final, rather surprising, shot of the film. 8/10

Reviewed by ebossert 7 / 10 / 10

A Weird, Mesmerizing Exposition on Individualism and False Dichotomies

Kiyoshi Kurosawa has had his duds. "Guard from the Underground" (1992) was mediocre at best, "Bright Future" (2003) was pretentious, and "Eyes of the Spider" (1998) was dreadfully boring. The first time I sat down and watched "Charisma" (1999) I had written it off as another Kiyoshi dud, but a future rewatch proved that it's likely his third best film – behind "Cure" (1997) and "Kairo" (2001). The key to enjoying this film is to recognize its two primary themes: individualism and false dichotomies. The value of the individual is contrasted with the needs of society as a whole, and the false dichotomy is the illusion that one must choose between one or the other. Kiyoshi communicates these ideas through symbolism. The tree named Charisma represents the individual human being, while the surrounding ecosystem represents society as a whole. The false dichotomy presents itself when each character is forced to choose between protecting Charisma or the surrounding ecosystem. Without recognizing these symbols, it is impossible for the viewer to appreciate the entertaining content of this film. One of the more interesting characters is the lady botanist. She previously studied individual plants, but claims that she learned nothing from them. She believes that most people are led astray when they look at the individual plants without observing the forest as a whole. This panoramic outlook is fueled when the ecosystem suffers a gradual decline. The botanist claims that the Charisma tree is poisoning the ecosystem and must be destroyed to preserve the surrounding environment. The cop asks her if there's a way for both to survive, but she says that it is impossible. However, it is divulged later on that the botanist herself is accelerating the destruction of the environment by dumping large quantities of poison into a nearby well. Her logic is that a quick death and restoration is a better option than the slow, gradual decline that Charisma is currently inflicting. This must be a very painful decision coming from a character that values the needs of the many over the needs of the few. The tree's guardian takes more of a natural selection angle, that the dominant individual should rightly survive irregardless of the consequences. He needs force to protect the Charisma tree, which is why he wants to persuade the cop to join his side. When the guardian makes reference to the "rules of the forest", the viewer will correctly remember that the kidnapper in the opening scene made reference to "the rules of the world", and since this movie uses the forest as a symbol for the human world, we now understand that both characters share the same essential outlook. You see, the "rules of the world" represent the false dichotomy of choosing between the individual and society. The world maintains order by forcing people to make this decision and blinding them from recognizing that a third option does indeed exist. The guardian seems to subconsciously recognize this third option, but his obsession with Charisma (aka the individual) prevents him from realizing it. This is where Koji Yakusho's character comes into play. He is the "swing vote" of sorts because his status as a policeman gives him the power of authority. However, he seemingly plays both sides, first opting to protect the first Charisma tree and then opting to destroy the second Charisma tree. To confuse matters he also destroys the botanist's poison well. Why does he act so erratically? Because he believes that both Charisma (aka the individual) and the forest (aka society) need to survive. For him the problem is the way the question is posed. Rules and force attempt to establish a false dichotomy that allows for only two wrong choices instead of the correct third option. Therefore, he chooses to help one Charisma and kill another, switching sides to keep the balance between the two forces. This film comes full circle on this theme near the end. The cop redeems his earlier mistake at the beginning of the film (getting both the kidnapper and hostage killed) by saving the botanist near the end without killing the kidnapper, another symbolic representation of avoiding a false dichotomy (of choosing one or another) by saving both. The policeman's refusal to play by the "rules of the forest" causes chaos on a local level, which is first depicted by the sledgehammer killings in the small town and then by the tree guardian's murder of the botanist's assistant. In addition, the men in black (initially hired to retrieve the first Charisma for its apparent monetary value) turn on the local environmentalists and kill them. Even more striking is that these men in black turn down a briefcase full of money and refuse to give the tree guardian a ride (a complete deconstruction of their previous personas that valued money above all else). And since the events within the forest act as a microcosm of the whole world, this local chaos manifests into a worldwide pandemonium. The policeman walks out of the forest to witness the nearby city in flames. His decision to rebel against the rules of the forest has now resulted in the deconstruction of the rules of the world. This is a very well-written movie that is consistent and efficient in its structure. Viewers with an attraction to odd, quirky, deliberately paced art-house films should love this. The environments are also beautiful and moody, and the chilly weather makes this film essential viewing during the late autumn months. A truly great film with more creativity and imagination than a dozen others combined.

Reviewed by Javel-2 7 / 10 / 10

Another marvel of modern Japanese cinema

Charisma shows another side of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's talent. The forest contrasts deeply with the industrial environment of License to Live, yet Charisma's symbolic analysis of the Japanese society's fears and latent insanity is much more acute. This movie is also one of the few which show the collapse of both individuals and society so intimately. It takes even more sense in the perspective of the Millennium Fear, even if this theme is not explicitly named in the movie. All in all, Charisma is certainly a movie to discover.

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