CAPSULE: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a writer and director almost unknown in the United States, is superb at creating an atmosphere of dread and suspense as he did with PULSE. This film is a cut below that film. A famous fashion photographer takes daguerreotype pictures of his daughter in memory of his dead wife. His new photographic assistant has his own ideas that will stir things up. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
I just do not know what happened to talented film director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. He had made a small handful of sublimely creepy horror films, but after then he seems to have decided to just avoid that style of the horror genre. Either that or his films stopped coming to the United States. His CURE (1997) was a police procedural involving a man who could just brush against someone in the street and that innocent person immediately became an unstoppable killer. His PULSE (2001) involved hell filling up and the damned returning to Earth. His SEANCE (2000) was a remake of the film SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON with supernatural implications the original film did not have. Sadly, of his work few films seem to have come to our shores. Now in short order two of his films have appeared, but they are nowhere the quality of PULSE. DOPPELGANGER (2003) is rather tedious and DAGUERREOTYPE (2016) is a simple melodrama with a sadly predictable ending.
Stephane (played by Olivier Gourmet) is a famous fashion photographer. His hobby is daguerreotype photography. He used to take daguerreotype pictures of his wife, but she died, leaving him scarred by the loss. Instead he takes daguerreotype pictures of his daughter, Marie (Constance Rousseau). The daguerreotype process is extremely taxing on the subject who must remain totally motionless for fifty to seventy minutes while the image is etched in steel plate. Stephane turns a blind eye to the pain and discomfort he is subjecting his daughter to. He hires a new assistant to help him, Jean (Tahar Rahim). Jean becomes fixated on the beautiful Marie. But Stephane possesses Marie. And Jean wants to loosen his grip her.
The pacing is slow and some shots could have been a little more closely cropped. The film's 121 minutes could have been cut back a bit. But the film is undeniably atmospheric. The first half of the film contributes far more atmosphere than plot, but that reinforces the overall grimness of the circumstances. This is Kurosawa's first film to be shot outside of Japan. The film is in French and takes place in France.
Kurosawa is a master of subtle silent scares. He could be the Val Lewton of Japanese film. But style without story for it to serve is incomplete and is a pointless exercise. If Kurosawa is not going to meld story and style I can only suggest that he study his earlier, creepier horror films. I rate DAGUERREOTYPE a +1 on the - 4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4628882/combined
[Note: Kiyoshi Kurosawa is not related to Akira Kurosawa.]
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper