Ikiru The Criterion Collection
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One of the greatest achievements by Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), Ikiru presents the director at his most compassionate—affirming life through an exploration of death. Takashi Shimura (Rashomon) beautifully portrays Kanji Watanabe, an aging bureaucrat with stomach cancer who is impelled to find meaning in his final days. Presented in a radically conceived two-part structure and shot with a perceptive, humanistic clarity of vision, Ikiru is a multifaceted look at what it means to be alive. BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack • Audio commentary from 2004 by Stephen Prince, author of The Warrior’s Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa • A Message from Akira Kurosawa (2000), a ninety-minute documentary produced by Kurosawa Productions and featuring interviews with Kurosawa • Documentary on Ikiru from 2003, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create, and featuring interviews with Kurosawa, script supervisor Teruyo Nogami, writer Hideo Oguni, actor Takashi Shimura, and others • Trailer • Essays by critic and travel writer Pico Iyer and critic Donald Richie
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The main character, is a department head of a council who finds out he is going to die from cancer and suffers an existential crisis. The only life he really has is as the department head of a pretty hopeless bureaucracy, & when he realizes the extent of his situation related to that, he puts all his effort into achieving one act of public service out of the city council which is riddled by a hierarchical claustrophobic bureaucracy all the way up to its top which even includes a type of mafia.
This is ultimately an uplifting film although very unsentimental in some of the juxtapositions of it's wide cast of characters, & it has a tightly knit well played narrative of social commentaries. It is a film which is interesting in being an expression of view overall as much as anything else, and is a natural companion piece to Kurosawa's later film Red Beard in this regard as to being a philosophical position held i think.
This is for the two disc dvd special edition which has two worthwhile documentaries covering the the film & the singular Kurosawa.
(Other reviews discuss the plot of the film quite well. Please take time to read them, if you wish. Sometimes a person's viewing pleasure is enhanced by not knowing in advance what is about to be seen. Just be sure to pay attention to what goes on in the film, for Akira Kurosawa does not spell things out or underline them for the viewer as do modern films from Hollywood. Repeated viewings of "Ikiru" may be needed to catch what the director/screenwriter sends your way.)
This film, now a half-century old, still communicates this needed message of how "to live" with excellence. From the acting skills of all the players to the elliptical means of the story's presentation with its portrayal of multiple viewpoints (it's done so smoothly, with such assurance) to the use of camera placement and angles to the integration of music to the action depicted to the use of editing techniques (wipes, jump cuts and fade outs, as well as when NOT to use sound), this film displays its brilliance in all its 141 minutes of running time. (NB, the film should be 143 minutes long per Donald Richie, but I have never seen at the theater, on VHS or on DVD, a version of this film longer than 141 minutes. The original negative was destroyed in a Toho studio fire.) The tempo of the film may be slow for some viewers. Just relax, recalibrate the bio-rhythms and take in all that this terrific film has to offer.
Note: the English subtitles on the video come from the 1960 Brandon Films release of this 1952 Japanese film into the United States. There are certain passages of dialogue that are not translated but would provide greater depth of understanding of the film if they had been. See Donald Richie's translation of the script, if possible. Revised subtitles with a newer, more complete translation, would be welcome.