Saturday, October 26, 2019

Ikiru (1952)

Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is certainly a legend of world cinema - personally I have seen a handful of his classics like Ran (1985), Seven Samurai (1954), and Roshomon (1950).

Ikiru has been on my list, but only recently have I gotten my hands on it, wanting to cross this film off my list of IMDB top 250 films I had not yet watched.

The film (just a little long, and a little artful in moments) in a first view instantly makes an impression. In a sentence this film tells the story of a dedicated and frugal bureaucrat who discovers his days to live are numbered and finds himself searching for the best use of his last days. 

I personally found the story arch itself expertly crafted - particularly the way different "chapters" of the story end of playing into each other. An example of this is the way the introduction of the primary character Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) bureaucratic nature is demonstrated in the collection of mother's wanting to improve the cesspool in their community, and how this moment of the film seems perfect as a stand alone moment, and yet it comes up again in the story in a sincere and well constructed way. Other similar moments recycle perfectly, such as when Mr. Watanabe experiences the joy of the city with a famous author, and later shares some of those same moments with a female subordinate. 

I find it interesting to watch this film over a half century after it's initial release because there are some items that capture the human experience that is as relevant today as ever. If there's any part that seems it could have been progressive at the time is the side-story of a young civil servant (Miki Odagiri as Toyo) who after a year and a half working for the government finds herself bored and seeking professional fulfillment.

There are some lovely quotes and concepts presented in this film as well - such as sorrow Watanabe experiences when he intentionally indulges in high cost sake, or the simple quote "I can't afford to hate people. I don't have that kind of time."

Without revealing the power of this film's finale, I must say, the final "chapter" here in the way the final days of Watanabe's life is told, is really in mind mind the trademark of the creativity I've seen in Akira Kurasawa's inventive and powerful storytelling - it's these moments that you realize you are watching a master. This film is a gift in it's style, craft, acting, and namely in it's effort to take a powerful theme in what it means to live.

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