It’s an old story, but it seems like we’ll never stop hearing it told again: You can wow audiences and even earn a certain cult acclaim by in the horror genre, but it you won’t win awards until you go mainstream; then all the critics who liked your work but didn’t want to bestow accolades on something as disreputable as a horror film can come out of the closet and bestow an award on you, which can be interpreted either as a reward for leaving the genre behind or as a retroactive acknowledgement of all the good work you’ve done in the past. This distinction between successfully scary pop art and seriously respectable cinema was perhaps most vivid in 1993 when Steven Spielberg directed both JURASSIC PARK – which went on to become the biggest box officer grosser ever up to that time – and SCHINDLER’S LIST – which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
The latest example of this phenomenon is Kiyoshi Kurosawa, director of the influential 2001 J-horror film PULSE (which was remade in America a few years later). Although many of Kurosawa’s films have screened at the Cannes Film Festival, the director just pieced up his first award there – for the non-genre TOKYO SONOTA:
“I have shown films at Cannes many times before,” he said.
“But with Tokyo Sonata I felt that audiences really appreciated the film and found it satisfying. It wasn’t that they saw it as something weird and exclusively Japanese. They could relate to it,” he added.
In a Reuters interview, Kurosawa makes it clear that the genre change was not merely to win awards; like many who toil in horror, he wanted to avoid being typed in the genre:
“I made a lot of horror films, but I wanted to do other things,” the 53-year-old director told Reuters on Thursday. “I didn’t want to be seen as a specialist in that genre.”