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Bad Sleep Well, The (1960) * Hidden Gem *


No, I actually DIDN'T fall asleep!
But just the ones in THIS apartment!

Genre: Crime Thriller Noir Drama (Japan) 

Starring: Toshirô Mifune (Red Beard • "Shogun") Masayuki Mori (Ugetsu • Rashomon)

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa (The Most BeautifulThose Who Make Tomorrow)

Overview: A man plotting vengeance for the death of his father marries the daughter of a high ranking industrialist to take the company down from the inside.

The Bad Sleep Well begins in a rather complex fashion.  Names are thrown about liberally, corporate middle-men, journalists, and big-wigs alike all toss in their two cents about the reasons Koichi could possibly be marrying the lame daughter of Vice President Iwabuchi of Public Corporation. This trio is mentioned, that high-ranking official is discussed, and a bidder or two for a big project are all mentioned.

It's complicated. It's hard to wrap one's mind around it all. And I'd hazard that it was all done on purpose because it all begins to come clear as we delve into the lives of everyone named.

We gaze into the corrupt Public Corporation, the men who signed the deals, took the money and drove / are driving employees to suicide. Then there's Koichi himself, the man trying his best, by any means necessary, to get those responsible to pay.

Kurosawa's modern Hamlet-inspired screenplay is, to date, his darkest tale (not having seen I Live in Fear yet). As the darker aspects of Koichi's plan kick into high gear, we go from the civilized boardrooms and offices to old war-torn wastelands, perfect symbols for the muddy morality being displayed.

Corporate intrigue, humanity and Consequentialism are the big driving themes of The Bad Sleep Well, and with enough nuance to keep it out of the cliché while still having enough guts to keep the moralizing heavy, we have here a gorgeously shot sleeper hit that passed under the radar of 'Kurosawan greats'.  

And yes, the ending is fantastic.

Mifune in a haircut!
Mifune in a post-war haircut!

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

Overall Rating: 88% (It'll Keep You Wide Awake)

When Kurosawa made The Bad Sleep Well, it was his first under his new production company, Kurosawa Productions Co. I discovered this after the fact, however I can't say that the style was any different than I've grown to recognize. I suspect that's mainly because Kurosawa was a hardliner in regards to his creative vision and usually stood firm on anything he'd decided. How The Bad Sleep Well managed to fall by the wayside as a career-important staple I'll never know.  This is why I'm seeing all his works.

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