Friday, March 13, 2009


Of the half-dozen Kiyoshi Kurosawa films I've seen, he either hits it out of the park (Cure, Pulse) or makes a muddled mess (Charisma, Doppelgänger). One exception, however, is Seance, which is a little of both (leaning heavily towards the muddled mess side of the equation). While the film has its moments, the principle issue is that, in attempting an interpretation of the 1961 novel Seance on a Wet Afternoon by Mark McShane, the director strays so far from the source material that when he finally gets around to addressing it, the incongruities in plot and characterization completely undermine the film.

In the original story, an ambitious medium decides to advance her career by perpetrating a kidnapping and then helping the police solve the case. In Kurosawa's film, the Japanese lady psychic has no such intentions, and only hits on the idea once a little girl, kidnapped by someone else, appears in an equipment case belonging to her sound engineer husband (how the kid gets in there is another problem with the film, a twist to beggar anyone's willing suspension of disbelief).

On the plus side, there's Kurosawa's go-to guy, the always-great Koji Yakusho as the psychic's supportive yet beleaguered husband. And there are certainly some creepy moments, particularly after the couple inadvertently kill the little girl. However, the film is ultimately defeated by what my Stone Bridge Press label mate Jerry White calls (in his The Films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa) the director's "sometimes unfortunate disregard for narrative coherency." Seance comes nowhere near Pulse, Kurosawa's apocalyptic ghost epic. It's a small film, smaller than it should be, and will only appeal to fans of this sometimes-great director.

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