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The Lower Depths (Kurosawa 1957) / The Lower Depths (Renoir 1936) - Criterion Collection
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Both films have been meticulously restored and remastered to Criterion's high standards; Renoir's film still shows its age, but it will never look or sound better than it does here, and Renoir provides an informative introduction culled from the same archival materials featured on Criterion's The Rules of the Game DVD. Better yet, Kurosawa's film is accompanied by a superb commentary by peerless Japanese film scholar Donald Richie, who provides a feature-length treasury of anecdotes (he had actually visited Kurosawa's set in 1957), thematic analysis, production history, and scholarly insight. A 33-minute excerpt from the Japanese TV series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create offers rare interview clips with Kurosawa and surviving members of his cast, along with script, art design, and storyboard details to illustrate Kurosawa's creative process. Kurosawa expert Stephen Prince profiles the esteemed cast of the 1957 film, and exclusive essays about both films are included in the accompanying booklet. As a kind of Rorschach test for each director's approach to style and theme, The Lower Depths offers a back-to-back master class in the art of adaptation. --Jeff Shannon
- New digital transfer with restored image and sound plus new subtitle translation by renowned Japanese-film translator Linda Hoaglund
- Audio Commentary featuring Japanese-film expert Donald Richie
- 33-minute documentary on the film from the series "Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create"
- New essay by Keiko McDonald and Thomas Rimer
- Cast biographies by Stephen Prince
- Also contains 1936 French film of the same name directed by and introdcued by Jean Renoir
Top Customer Reviews
Lower Depths is an intricate story of poverty and those who fall into the deepest of socioeconomic despair based on the writer Maxim Gorky's play with the same name. The story takes place in the outskirts of Paris in a poorhouse where Pépel (Jean Gabin), a thief, is planning a raiding. Pépel is having an affair, which he tries to break off, with Vassilissa (Suzy Prim), the proprietor's wife, as he has come to realize that he loves Natacha (Junie Astor), Vassilissa's sister. This provides much intrigue as Vassilissa wants her husband dead because she wants to leave the poorhouse.
Gambling has driven the Baron (Louis Jouvet) to poverty and he has lost his administrative position at the ministry due to theft to cover for his gambling debts. When the Baron arrives home suicidal from one last disastrous gamble he searches for his gun in desperation. Instead the Baron discovers that he has a guest, Pépel, with whom the Baron builds a friendship as they spend the night chatting and playing cards. During the night Pépel finds out that creditors are about to repossess the Baron's mansion and the Baron is only a night away from same living conditions as Pépel.
The majority of the story takes place at the poorhouse where a number of interesting characters provide much insight into how people end up in the lower depths of society. Renoir's adaptation of the Lower Depths was thoroughly appreciated by Gorky as Renoir concentrated on how people shift social class either up or down. This focus is enhanced by the cast with the exception of Junie Astor whose face remains as motionless as a dusty bust when she is in focus of the camera.Read more ›
Before shooting started, Kurosawa rehearsed solidly for six weeks, with the actors on set in full costume and makeup and the cameras rolling but empty. The result is the most phenomenal piece of ensemble acting I have ever seen. Every part in the play (no matter how small) is acted with extraordinary detail, realism, and humour (the cast features many of the "Kurosawa group", including greats such as Toshiro Mifune, Isuzu Yamada and Minoru Chiaki), captured by sensitive, unobtrusive (but nonetheless stylish) cinematography.
The play itself resonates with the themes that run throughout all Kurosawa's work - humanism, class, and the ability (or inability) of human beings to face the truth. Although the play is often seen as despairing, this rigorously unsentimental production also contains an extraordinary and utterly unexpected sense of spontaneity and joy.
The result is funny, profound, and heartbreaking.
Kurosawa's adaptation of Gorky's "the Lower Depths" is brilliant. Kurosawa used the same group of actors for most of his Toho era films. He insisted on the most incredible attention to detail in his sets and costumes. He required this from the actors as well. His invisible presence is everywhere in the film. He brought out the best in the actors, set designers, writers, and camera operators. The attention to detail from beginning to end is awe-inspiring. That the movie is in Japanese is both a blessing and a curse. Since few of us understand Japanese, many of the nuances of the language are lost on us and we are at the mercy of the translators. On the other hand, the separation of the emotional quality of the actors voices from the meaning of the words adds a depth to the play.
One could go into the different lives of the various characters, but this is best left to the viewer. Now that Kurosawa's movies are available on video tape and DVD, we can see them from a more personal level.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Film = 2-1/2 stars; restoration = four stars. Humor, especially humor on film (which, of course, can not be modernized like a stage play), is often lost between generations. Read morePublished 21 months ago by William Flanigan
Two great film directors ( Jean Renoir and Akira Kurosawa) made films based on the famous Russian literature classic. The Criterion box, includes both versions. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Felipe N. Gajate
I appreciate Jean Renoir very much. His 1936 film in this set, with excellent performances by the leads is good, but not up to the level of his "Boudu Saved From Drowning" and... Read morePublished on January 8, 2014 by Frank
Some films appear to go nowhere and yet truly define the effect that cinema can have on a person by presenting them with a fully developed character study that resides and dwells... Read morePublished on May 28, 2013 by Andrew Ellington
Two great filmings of the same tale...one France one Japan. Two magnificent directors. Renoir is just simply incomparable. He certainly was his father's son! Read morePublished on January 22, 2012 by John Cacciatore
Both movies are excellent. It is also interesting to see the differences between the two versions. Kurosawa is a darker rendition of the Renoir version. Read morePublished on November 13, 2011 by K. Cannon
The Criterion Collection offers two different film versions of "The Lower Depths": one made in 1936 by Jean Renoir and another one made in 1957 by Kurosawa. Read morePublished on May 6, 2011 by Alfredo
I watched the Renoir version and the Kurosawa version back-to-back one night and TRULY enjoyed both. Read morePublished on August 23, 2005 by P. Chavez
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