Ikiru - tuesday 2007-06-26 0925 last modified 2007-06-26 0925
Categories: Film
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As I slowly work through the body of Akira Kurosawa's films, I am reminded of why he is rightly revered as a master director. Ikiru, or To Live, is one of his best, somehow gaining less recognition than The Seven Samurai. Perhaps because it isn't a jidai-geki (period piece), which I think most of his films are, it gets less limelight. It suffers not at all for being a contemporary film. Should you have the opportunity, do watch it. Reconstruction Tokyo is, through Kurosawa's lens, just as absorbing as feudal countrysides, and Watanabe-san's story carries just as much weight in a society of frivolous pursuits as it must have in an evolving culture swamped by frivolous bureaucratic minutiae.

I also watched Ugetsu recently, considered a masterpiece of Japanese film making but jarringly divergent from Kurosawa's storytelling techniques. It pays off the way Crime and Punishment does, right at the very end, and, unlike the lingering scenes and tightly connected wipes Kurosawa uses to such good effect in Ikiru to establish mood and plot progression, Ugetsu makes disjointed leaps in time and events in conjunction with longer takes, a precursor to the jumpy quick-cut films of modern Hollywood. I ended up feeling the jumpy mood and fast-forwarded through some of the slower parts. Yes, I know, I'm a heretic. While I ultimately enjoyed Ugetsu, I think I'd have to rank it in general below all of Kurosawa's efforts, at least that I've seen to date. That Kurosawa. He's ruined me for jidai films.

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