Ikiru (1952)


Genre: Drama (Japan) 

Starring: Takashi Shimura (The Bad Sleep WellThrone Of Blood), Shinichi Himori (Scandal)

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa (Rhapsody in AugustHigh and Low)

Overview: A sedentary bureaucrat learns that he has stomach cancer and tries to truly live before he dies.

Ikiru is the kind of film that makes this deep, chronological immersion of Kurosawa's films worthwhile. Ikiru is the film that made everything that came before click in my mind and grant it a context that couldn't be understood as well without knowing the visual past that The Emperor has made. Having seen almost all of his previous works, I saw in Ikiru the culmination of a man's vision reach the much deserved apex that it did. Now is the time that his masterpieces are a constant. 

Rashomon was a bit of a fluke. A fluke made by an exceptionally experienced crew, but with so much of the unknown going on in the background, it's surprising that the film even happened, and that it won awards in the West while being panned by Japanese critics, well that says something about Kurosawa as well.

That's the guy
That's the guy

With Ikiru, we can see pieces of characters from Akira's past screenplays become richly dynamic in the hands of actor Takashi Shimura. To see a story unfold where the cinematography, the writing, the acting, and the editing all come together so perfectly, it's knowing that where Rashomon is a big hit, a true masterpiece, a film worthy of praise, Ikiru is the film that make Akira Kurosawa great, because he could do it again, and not by accident. With everything at his disposal, from budget to creative control, we can see the auteur emerge.

We can see the beginning of the end of the post-war era through Kurosawa's eyes, the crushing bureaucracy that is slowly 'normalizing' Japan's modern society, and we see the men and women lost in it, and the commentary is comedically all too true.

We can easily imagine Kurosawa as Kanji Watanabe, our protagonist, especially if you've seen some of the works he's made to date. We can imagine his personality through these characters.  They are honest and simple, and the tale is still extremely original. It touches on the familiar while not being cliché, even today.

Iki, roo
Iki, roo

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 8 Script: 9 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 84% (Go See 'Ru)

In short, Kurosawa, with the help of a cast and crew with experience, created in Ikiru a story that is deeply personal, one that surpasses, in my humble opinion, anything he's ever done before. More than that, it's a film unsullied by having been copied, and that's the best treasure of them all.

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I've seen most of Kurosawa's films except some of the earlier, rare ones and I must say this is probably my favorite, which is surprising since I'm a big Mifune fan and he isn't even in it!

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