Angel Dust (1994)
Directed by Sogo Ishii
Written by Yorozu Ikuta, Sogo Ishii
Produced by Kenzo Horikoshi, Eiji Izumi, Taro Maki
Starring Kaho Minami, Takeshi Wakamatsu, Etsushi Toyokawa, Masayuki Shionoya, Ryoko Takizawa
Ishii's repair to feature filmmaking following one of his distinctive hiatus was one of but a few fantastic flicks that initiated a renaissance of Japanese horrors and thrillers. Perplexed by a series of weekly murders befalling demoiselles poisoned with a common gardening toxin, Tokyo police recruit an accomplished criminal psychologist (Minami) to sift for clues in the apparent absence of these victims' commonality or association. Her chief suspect (Wakamatsu, never creepier) is also her whilom lover and mentor, a radical anathema in the psychological profession who supervises a clinic wherein members of a buoyant and benignant cult are forcibly deprogrammed -- from which the first victim was once a devotee, then his patient. It may be Ishii's chef-d'oeuvre: thematic profundity inheres of every arresting shot, in which the master stylist's exact and inventive composition accommodates gorgeous photography, an argosy of eye-popping devices and manifold haunting chills, cut with punctilious vacillation from deliberate to breakneck successions. Moreover, the trajectory of this plot is so awry to confound most prediction and any expectation, a refreshing mode for a morbid topic ordinarily depicted in trite and adolescent fashion. This picture's entire cast yields fine performances, but the pernicious discomfiture that swells within and ultimately shatters the stolid guise of Minami's literate, percipient eideteker is enacted with emotive yet nuanced expression, distinguishing her from the mass of her facile, photogenic peers. Ishii's achievement pioneered a route further plied by his brilliant coevals (Kurosawa, Miike, et al.), but few analogous films have yet succeeded it, and Dust remains innovatory twenty years posterior to production -- a condition that betokens the regression of genre filmmaking as much as his virtuosity.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Cure.