It's hardly Kiyoshi Kurosawa's best or worst effort by any means. Admittedly, Charisma is burdened by an uneven tone and occasional lack of focus, yet its cast is quite good (Kurosawa's habitual casting of Yakusho, Osugi, Fubuki and Doguchi has always yielded interesting results), its photography striking and its story presents so many novel concepts and surprises that such a unique and challenging motion picture can't be readily dismissed. It isn't comparable to Cure or Pulse - not by a long shot - but it's well worth watching.
This is one of the better DVDs that I've seen in a while. Its main menu is dominated by shifting, translucent overlaid images of trees scored by Gary Ashiya's haunting music. The format of the scene selection menu is something that I'd like to see more of: in lieu of numerous pages of screen still thumbnails, the selections consist of two lists of numbered scene titles. This is a faster, more efficient means of locating and viewing any particular scene.
The film looks and sounds as good as it did in theater twelve years ago. The print is a bit grainy, but that's how I remember it and the rustic vividity of the cinematography is reproduced at full luster.
The special features are also of interest. First among these is an interview with Kurosawa in which he discusses the numerous obstacles that almost prevented this film's realization. He describes the story's numerous themes, and the many ways in which it was altered to suit both the constraints of the production's limitations and his own ever-changing conception of it. He also expresses a mild dissatisfaction with his finished product.
Thirty-four minutes of behind-the-scenes footage is included, most of it very watchable. Highlights of this feature include the antics of the cast and crew (I never knew that Ren Osugi was such a goof) and footage that details the execution of numerous special effects during the shoot. Clips from the movie are interspersed throughout for expository comparison.
The overblown Japanese video trailer for Charisma, adequate French theatrical trailer for Seance and excellent U.S. theatrical trailer for Cure are also included. An extremely low-fi version of this last has been floating around online for years; it's nice to finally see a decent copy of it.
Subtitles are available only in English; French equivalents would have been a nice addition, considering that this movie was fairly popular throughout the Francosphere...
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About the reviewer
Robert Buchanan (rbuchanan)
My personality type is INTJ. I'm a bibliophile. I like cats!