Tuesday, January 09, 2007

IKIRU (1952)


Akira Kurosawa is a master of Japanese cinema. Though Roshoman, Seven Samurai, and Ran may be the glitzier and more well known of his works, one cannot overlook the power of his quieter films. My personal favorite Kurosawa film is an underrated thriller entitled Hi and Lo but after seeing Ikiru, I'd have to rethink that perhaps. Kurosawa directed this story at the relatively tender age of 42 and I find myself amazed at his grasp on characterization, depth, and humanity at this point of his life. Acclaimed directors twice that age can envy his capability w/ such a subject and mourn the absence of such an achievement in their own lifetime, I'm sure. It's a life affirming and moving glance at what 'could have been' that we won't soon forget.
Kanji Watanabe is a longtime bureaucrat in a city office that has devoted his life to little else than the tedium of his occupation. He sits at a desk and stamps papers, sending them to other city departments for perusal and this is his life...all day and all year. Through the years, he has devoted so much time to this job that his relationship w/ his son has severely suffered and his memory of his dead wife has somewhat faded...leaving Kanji a virtual shell of a man. Things change, however, when he discovers that he has developed a severe stomach cancer and death is close at hand. Frantically, he begins to seek meaning in his life-searching everywhere and through everything. He turns to all of the typical avenues of release-booze, women, parties, excess-and eventually finds a solemn comfort in the companionship of a young female co-worker that seems to have the happiness and contentment he lacks. This relationship causes Kanji to see a side to himself that he never knew he had-which results in a wonderful revelation of character and some drastic changes in his life. After his death, we find that he has somehow been raised to the status of hero in his community.
Kurosawa's long-winded narrative can lag at points. I felt that there were a couple of scenes that seemed to go on a little long and facial expressions that were somewhat puzzling . But the ideas and morals of this story are timeless and told with love. The performance by Shimura is never less than miraculous-absolutley beautiful-heartbreakingly real. The emotion on his face is always completely astonishing and never fails to make an impact. His slow painful movements that never belie the physical ailment he suffers sit so precisely juxtaposed with his determined and almost panicked eyes that search so fanatically for an answer. And the supporting players are likewise memorable, bringing depth and realism to Kanji's journey. There is a song that appears at recurring moments in the movie that also lends and especially sweet mood to the scenes in which it appears. It's a tune that you will find yourself humming for hours after the film's completion.
Needless to say, I strongly recommend this movie. It is an excellent example of Kurosawa's skill and Shimura's talent while at the same time supplying a beautiful moral and enduring story. You will feel moved and determined to live your own life to its fullest, never taking family or time for granted.
Yes, there are some movies that accomplish worlds of good.
My rating-9/10


Blogger Biby Cletus said...

Nice post, its a Super cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

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