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Review: Wife of a Spy

Here in the United States, Kiyoshi Kurosawa has acquired a reputation for primarily producing “J-horror,” thanks in large part to the popularity of Pulse and Cure. This belief is, however, both reductive and inaccurate, downplaying the director’s versatility; in truth, his filmography boasts a wide variety of genres, from science fiction to supernatural romance to travelogue. His latest effort, Wife of a Spy, adds “slow-burn political thriller” to the list—and it may just be his most accomplished work to date.

Kurosawa’s minimalistic approach perfectly suits the suspenseful subject matter, lending the plot a claustrophobic, suffocating atmosphere. Indeed, his style occasionally borders on Spielbergian: he’ll usually stage a scene entirely from a single camera angle, subtly readjusting the frame and repositioning the actors to seamlessly transition from master shot to coverage. The effect is, perhaps, less cinematically exciting than the flamboyantly elaborate Steadicam oners often employed by Scorsese and Tarantino, but Kurosawa’s craftsmanship feels all the more elegant and graceful for its patience and purposefulness.

Wife of a Spy is the centerpiece presentation of this year’s Japan Cuts film festival, though tickets for its online screenings appear to have completely sold out. Fortunately, it will also be playing a limited engagement at IFC Center starting next month. I highly recommend checking it out.

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