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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Sťance (KŰrei) (2000)

"That is why people don't take us seriously."
- Junco (Jun Fubuki)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: May 16, 2005

Stars: Koji Yakusho, Jun Fubuki
Other Stars: Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Kitarou
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:37m:12s
Release Date: May 17, 2005
UPC: 037429200827
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B-B B

DVD Review

Junco (Jun Fubuki) is a psychic married to sound engineer Sato (Koji Yakusho), and the pair lead a quiet, routine-driven life—so much so that at one point Sato himself refers to them as the "picture of modesty". A local paranormal researcher (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi) has been trying to use Junco's unusual skills to help solve crimes, but the police are understandably skeptical. That is, until a young girl is kidnapped, and after a series of very unfortunate events, her disappearance eventually develops into a chance for Junco to really prove her genuine abilities, but ultimately at a regrettable cost.

Séance comes from acclaimed director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Doppelgänger), and in this 2000 film he adapts Mark McShane's 1964 novel, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, and reworks things into an eerie mix of supernatural horror and crime thriller with a distinctive Japanese undercurrent. Séance is all about creating a dread-filled atmosphere, but unlike the current rage of constant visual thrills, Kurosawa does it very slowly and with great skill, building upon simple moments of mundane situations until something completely unnatural occurs, and by doing so creates an effective mood that seems all the more terrifying.

Kurosawa frames his film by using windows extensively, as we see characters through an assortment of portals in much the same way that Junco has her visions of the dearly departed. This technique is subtle, and the camera movement is often slow to pull back to reveal the characters framed by varying walls of glass, and as the story progresses Kurosawa use of this becomes more frequent as the plot gets increasingly darker. There is a sense of deliberate high style in Séance, something Kurosawa nurtures as he refuses to deliver the type of big-money scares that many would associate with a horror film dealing with supernatural elements. The scares, and there are a few chilling ones here, are a different breed than the typical genre film, slightly more cerebral and decidedly less effects-driven, though certainly more so than McShane's book.

In the end, Kurosawa's Séance alternates between the unraveling of a quiet Japanese couple and their involvement in one of those dangerous plans that just never go right in movies. The supernatural components pop in like what I perceive flashes of genuine psychic visions to be, and reinforces the concept that it's not always a good thing to be able to talk to the dead.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Kurosawa's film is presented in its original full frame, and the print here is slightly soft, with moments of fine grain. Colors are intentionally muted by Kurosawa, so much so that the bright green of the kidnapped girl's jacket seems unnaturally bright by comparison, appropriate within the context of the plot.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseno

Audio Transfer Review: The original Japanese language 2.0 stereo track is provided here, with optional English subtitles. The track is hiss free, and very serviceable, and the presentation gets a dramatic boost during the occasional ominous deep sound cues that signal something bad about to happen.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cure, Charisma
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: In addition to a trio of Kurosawa trailers, there is also a short but informative Interview with Kiyoshi Kurosawa (10m:01s), presented in Japanese with English subtitles. The interview allows the director to talk about adapting the book into the film form, and what changes he felt necessary to make, and how he constructed his unique visual approach to telling the story.

The disc is cut into 21 chapters, with optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

This isn't the flashy, effects-driven genre film that attracts most mainstream viewers, because Kiyoshi Kurosawa takes it on the slow side to merge horror and thriller styles into a hypnotically disturbing trip that hits very hard in small doses. Koji Yakusho is effortless as the modest Sato who is drawn into a very bad place, but Jun Fubuki steals this as the misunderstood and distant Junco.



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