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Ikiru (The Criterion Collection)

4.7 out of 5 stars 163 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In this film, considered by some critics to be Akira Kurosawa's greatest and most compassionate achievement, Takashi Shimura (Seven Samurai) portrays Kenji Watanabe, an aging bureaucrat with stomach cancer forced to strip the veneer off his existence and find meaning in his final days.

Special Features

  • New transfer with restored image and sound and improved subtitle translation
  • Audio commentary by Stephen Prince, author of The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa
  • A Message from Akira Kurosawa (2000): a 90-minute documentary produced by Kurosawa Productions and featuring interviews with the director on the set of his later films
  • A 41-minute documentary on Ikiru from the series, Akira Kurosawa: To Create is Beautiful

Product Details

  • Actors: Takashi Shimura, Bokuzen Hidari, Minosuke Yamada, Kamatari Fujiwara, Makoto Kobori
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Special Edition, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 1, 2010
  • Run Time: 143 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JLMU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,305 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ikiru (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ernest Jagger on August 9, 2005
Format: DVD
There are many wonderful reviews on this site about why the film "Ikiru" is so great. And many are beautifully written. I have seen many films in my life, yet "Ikiru" stands head and shoulders above any I have ever seen. For me, the film is not only the greatest Japanese film ever, but the greatest film of all-time. One of the reviewers [BARRY C. CHOW] gave a very good and poignant review of this film. And I hope he is wrong that the film will not appeal "to those raised on a western diet of car crashes, yammering idiots and pixie dust." However, maybe in time, when these viewers have grown older, wiser, and have experienced life, then these viewers will come to appreciate the pure genius of this Kurosawa classic.

I know that writing that this is the greatest film of all-time is a bold statement. So let me clarify it a bit more: It is my favorite film of all-time. I have seen countless films, but none have had the impact that this film has had on me. Ikiru (To Live) is not a film about dying: but how we live our lives. And in this short life of ours how we live our life matters. Are we kind to our neighbors? Do we care for our children? And just as important: Do we spend enough quality time with them? This is a quiet and simple film. The main protagonist Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) has gone through his life as another cog in the bureaucratic office where he works.

Maybe at one time in his life he had dreams of better things; yet with time he grows accustomed to his job; and is no longer alive with the passion of what makes life enjoyable. Yes, one can belong to a bureaucratic machine; but one can also make a difference, as we the viewer are about to find out. Moreover, we can also live a life outside of our jobs.
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By A Customer on September 22, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
Since others have written lengthy, intelligent reviews (And I'm glad they did) I will use my space to be simple. The film, at its most basic level, is about redemption, living (Ikiru is "To Live" in english) and dying, and what matters most to really make a difference in your life, and the lives of others. The film is quiet yet utterly powerful, a basic study of a man trying to find meaning in his last days. But it's so much more than that, and I can only describe the film and its purpose as noble, genuine, warm, moving, and beautiful. It is not a sappy, happy movie, but it's so quietly affecting that I'm a grown man who is still reduced to tears seeing the pivotal "swing" scene that is on the movie's cover. What is happening in that scene, what it means, what it represents, and what is being said during the shot, is, to me, just about the most hauntingly moving scene I've ever witnessed. And I will remember it forever, as well as all of Ikiru, as a poignant, sad yet triumphant example of the human spirit to really persevere and make a wonderful difference.
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Format: DVD
This is a humble film with the soul of an angel. It isn't about a life so much as it is about the act of living. This film, in its quiet way, asks us to ponder what makes life meaningful. And it argues that our pursuit of life's quantity is misplaced, because it leads to neglect of life's quality.
It tells the story of a dying man's last days. Kanji Watanabe is a lifelong cog in a vast bureaucratic machine who has wasted his entire life shuffling papers. He is played by Takashi Shimura in one of the finest understated performances ever committed to film. Shot in black and white, it is melancholic, bleak and subdued. Likely, Kurosawa chose to film in black and white to reflect the starkness of the protagonist's last days; the way the world looks through dying eyes; and it works.
It is the mark of Kurosawa's genius how the story and the character sneak up on us. At first, Mr. Watanabe seems an uninspiring study, hardly worthy of our sympathy. A small meek fragile man, he almost stoops under the weight of his own life. He learns of his illness in a well-known opening scene that combines pathos with cruel irony, and before we know it, we start to care about this little man who life treads so callously underfoot. What at first looks like lack of courage reveals itself to be lack of motivation. What we take to be a spineless career of dull conformity turns out to be a sacrifice made for the sake of an unappreciative son. This film has layers and subtlety and visual poetry presented with understatement, finesse and restraint: a wonderful combination that shows the deepest respect for the intelligence of the audience.
The moral turning point in the story is reached when Mr Watanabe determines to accomplish one worthwhile achievement before his life ends.
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Format: VHS Tape
"Ikiru," to my mind, may be the greatest film in the canon of one of the cinema's greatest directors. It is one of the most spiritually engaging films I have ever seen, and one that reveals new insights each time I watch it.
The Japanese word ikiru is a verb meaning "to live," and provides a very concise summary of what this film is about. Kurosawa's subject is nothing less than the meaning of life itself, and how we obscure that meaning through the thoughtlessness of our daily actions, our isolation from other human beings, and the misperceptions affecting the limited relations we do have with others. Through his depiction of a crisis in the life of his protagonist, Kurosawa challenges us to examine our own assumptions about life and happiness.
In "Ikiru," we meet Kanji Watanabe, a public official with no passion for his work duties. A narrator informs us that Watanabe has been more dead than alive for some time now, and simply goes through the motions at his job. His desk contains an enormous stack of petitions and requests from the public, along with various forms and memos. Watanabe doesn't seem interested in reducing the size of this mountain of paperwork. When he opens his desk drawer, we see a document entitled "A Plan to Raise Office Efficiency." He tears off the first page of the plan and uses it to clean his glasses, finally throwing the crumpled paper into his trashcan. As we watch Watanabe's barely conscious attempts to do his job, the narrator asks us if this type of detachment is morally acceptable.
As the film unfolds, we learn that Watanabe's zombie-like activities at the office are only part of his problems. He lives with his son and his son's wife, and seems to have a strained relationship with both of them.
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