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Akira Kurosawa's first color film is a spellbinding tribute to humankind's ability to overcome adversity by holding on to dreams. Brilliant colors flood the screen as Kurosawa illuminates the grim world of Tokyo slum dwellers who, to escape the pain of poverty, have taken refuge in illusion.
Made in 1970, this film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1972. This is Kurosawa's first color film, and there seems to be an almost psychedelic overlay to his production palette. The story revolves around a collection of characters held together only by the frayed thread of poverty. Rokkuchan (Yoshitaka Zushi), a teenager with the mind of a boy, is obsessed with trolley cars. He draws them from every angle in vivid colors. His despondent mother (Kin Sugai) hangs them lovingly on the walls and windows of their simple home.
Every morning Rokkuchan goes out to his imaginary trolley car and makes his way through the surrounding slums. His neighbors include a humble man with a terrible limp and an unforgiving wife, two couples who color-coordinate their husband-swapping, and a sad derelict man with an adoring but doomed little boy. During the day, father and son pass the time building a dream house in their minds. At night they sleep in an abandoned car.
While visually compelling, the film lacks connection between the characters, which leaves the viewer feeling disjointed and somehow lessens the emotional impact of these tragic stories. But as a slice-of-life look at how people maintain simple dignities in the face of great hardship, it is definitely a film worth seeing. --Luanne Brown
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UPDATE: I finally bought this DVD when it was decreased to $14.99 and it got here a day earlier than promised from Amazon. You can't beat that price for a Criterion Collection. Can't wait to see it for the 5th time!
The interconnected stories of the impoverished denizens of an urban slum in Tokyo may be pessimistic but they are fascinating all the same. Kurasawa tried a method of filmaking that would become popular some 25 years later with such films as Crash, Babel and Short Cuts. Misunderstood when it was released (the film took five years to get to the Unite States)and still seldom seen the film needs to be sought out by those who are interested in Kurasawa's work.
Available only on VHS this film would truly sparkle if given new life as a DVD release. The picture is letterboxed with good subtitles. Well worth seeing if you have the oppurtunity. Seek it out.
The DVD I received and a quick check online indicates that they say this movie was released in 1970. Bullshi!
I was 10-12 years old when I first saw this movie. That would be late 1950's or early 1960's. I saw the movie before I moved to the USA in 1963.
I don't know what's with the official release date. But, look at Kurosawa's work. Look at the movie -- it's color, the scenery (not that much devastation left in 1970 -- but I lived it in 1955). The cinematography, sets, ... everything point to this movie being produced much earlier than the release date on the DVD and Wikipedia of 1970. Perhaps in 1970 for the US release, but, lets at least note the production date in Japan. The mid-1950s Japan is not same as 1970. Japan in 1950s was still on rice rations. Some, or much of the war damage has not been cleared, many adults were still psychologically damaged from the War ... hundreds/thousands of former Japanese soldiers wrere begging on the streets.
The movie portrays immediate post-WWII Japan. Let's not mislead today's viewers otherwise!
But, dang, this is a classic. I have loved this movie, as I have said since, oh, 1960. ... 55+ years ago.
Makoto (Mac) Fletcher
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