Charisma | Chicago Reader

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A cop seeking solace in the forest after botching a hostage crisis chances upon a dying tree that may harbor a malevolent force in this 1999 ecological allegory by Japanese thriller director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The tree provokes strong responses from those encountering it, including a woman botanist who's convinced it's toxic, a zealous sanitarium resident who believes it's sacred, and other characters hoping to exploit it. Using long takes, disorienting camera angles, and elliptical dialogue, Kurosawa gradually turns the sci-fi premise into a metaphysical game; at times the teasing becomes precious, and the talk of reason and free will seems forced, but Kurosawa's minimalist mise-en-scene, similar to that of Takeshi Kitano or Tsai Ming-liang, is a pleasure to decipher. The casting of matinee idol Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance?) as the dispirited cop is surely inspired. 103 min.

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