Daguerrotype Screen 7 articles



Daguerrotype Poster
  • Daguerrotype is, for better and (mainly) for worse, a film far out of its time. Though it takes place in the present day, its naïve emotional attitudes and molasses-slow pacing seem imported from a different era. Change the language and setting, but keep the overall tone, and this could be a gothic Hollywood melodrama from the 1930s or '40s. The way the film prizes long-term contemplation over instant gratification is also admirable, but it proceeds with humdrum literalness.

  • Kurosawa’s Daguerrotype is certainly a mess, though it’s easy to surmise why he was attracted to bring his interest in ghosts, phantoms, and psychological displacement to cinema’s birthplace... In an odd storytelling fumble by Kurosawa, the viewer is far ahead of the characters, and the final act of revenge is bloodless and inert.

  • The best thing about the movie is Stéphane’s basement studio, a massive set with lots of pockets of total darkness broken up by occasional cones of light. This is a very familiar look for Kurosawa, seen in Pulse, Cure, Serpent’s Path and many others, and it’s lurking with potential menace that never gets activated. The worst thing is pretty much everything else.

  • Alas, like Journey to the Shore, Daguerreotype is gradually undone by plotting so nebulous that it gives the film a sense that Kurosawa wasn’t entirely sure where he wanted to go with the film, which leaves its supposedly slow-burning longueurs feeling dull indeed.

  • An essential ingredient of Kurosawa’s crepuscular style seems to have been lost in translation: his dream logic. If the filmmaking in Daguerrotype is some of his most confident and romantic, the plotting is some of his least interesting (it, uh, involves real estate) and most literal, possessed by its own backstory.

  • Perhaps inspired by his new surroundings, and developing the tone of his unfairly forgotten, otherworldly romance Journey to the Shore (2015), Kurosawa keeps the horror at bay and instead infuses his film with lyrical sensitivity and a wryly developed but nevertheless touching romance reminiscent of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir... Daguerrotype gracefully shifts before our eyes from the eerie to the haunted, from fear to obsession.

  • The timing of film editor Véronique Lange adds suspense and plants doubt in our minds. For example, bubbles from below the surface of a river where a body might have gone churn an anxiety-inducing amount of time before a diver surfaces, empty-handed. The script by Kurosawa was translated into French by Catherine Paillé, revealing both writers to be literate and exact. Daguerrotype is a consummate work by a master and his talented team.

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