Best known for the Lynchian Uzumaki / Spiral (2000), Higuchinsky's Long Dream was filmed that same year for Japanese TV, and is also derived from a manga by Junji Ito (Tomie), although the premise is a far more intriguing tale of a sleep clinic doctor investigating the effects of dream states that mutate to epic lengths, and drain a person's vitality, ultimately transforming the victim into a primordial creature.
Ito's story is compelling because patient zero (the poor bastard afflicted with the terminal condition) is deeply humanized: he desperately wants to return to his wife and regain some normalcy, yet he's aware the moments of non-delusional behaviour are becoming increasingly rare.
Woven into the narrative is the lead doctor's own dark past, involving guilt over a dead lover he desperately wants to revisit through vivid dreaming – hence his warped intent on isolating the cause of the condition, and finding some way to develop and control its impact through malicious, selfish testing on vulnerable patients. Add a green assistant who watches his boss transform from a Hippocratic doctor to hypocrite, and you have a story that, with great skill, could also be developed into a really compelling feature-length film.
Higuchinsky's direction is very assured, and he manages to milk a fair amount of suspense without applying gore or sadism, and transcends the production's obvious budgetary limitations. The performances are very strong, and the narrative is compact and well-paced, with Higuchinsky contributing atmospheric photography. Also of note is Zuntata's music score, with some modernistic piano cues that nail the film's atmosphere and eerie sequences that have bug-eyed patient zero wandering the clinic wings at night.
The DVD from Bone House Asia includes a number of interviews from the Japanese DVD: actor Shuuji Kashiwabara (patient zero) provides basic commentary on his character and the heavy makeup for the transformation scenes; manga artist Ito elaborates on his original story, with clips of some arresting art; and director Higuchinsky, seen in behind-the-scenes footage, is bizarrely shown with a blurry face in a straight-on interview where he discusses key production aspects. The “Bonus Interviews” are offer more commenta on characters, casting, and production minutia with the director, plus artist Ito discussing his impressions of the film versions of his work.
Clearly a compelling filmmaker, Higuchinsky's next film, Tokyo 10+01 (2003), currently remains his last produced work.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan
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