HIGH AND LOW
Based on an Ed McBain novel, High and Low is a gripping police thriller starring Toshiro Mifune. Wealthy industrialist Kingo Gondo (Mifune) faces an agonising choice when a ruthless kidnapper, aiming to snatch his young son, takes the chauffeur's boy by mistake but still demands the ransom leaving Gondo facing ruin if he pays up.
An anatomy of the inequalities in modern Japanese society, High and Low is a complex film noir, where the intense police hunt for the kidnapper is accompanied by penetrating insight into the kidnapper's state of mind. Kurosawa's virtuoso direction provides no easy answers, and in short, intense sequences he portrays the businessman, the police and the criminal as equally brutal, but nonetheless human.
Japan | 1963 | black & white | Japanese language with English subtitles | 143 minutes | Academy ratio 2.35:1 (16x9 anamorphic)
Sometimes I think of death , wrote Kurosawa, I think of ceasing to be... and its from these thoughts that Ikiru came. The story of a man diagnosed with stomach cancer, Kurosawa's film is a series contemplation of the nature of existence and the question of how we find meaning in our lives.
Opening with a slot of an x-ray, showing the main character's stomach, Ikiru tells the tale of a dedicated, downtrodden civil servant who, diagnosed with a fatal cancer, learns to change his dull, unfulfilled existence, and suddenly discovers a zest for life. Plunging first into self-pity, then a bout of hedonistic pleasure-seeking on the frenetic streets of post-war Tokyo, Watanabe the film's hero finally finds satisfaction through building a children's playground.
Beautifully played by Takashi Shimura (who starred in 21 of Kurosawa's films), Ikiru is an intensely lyrical and moving film, and was one of Kurosawa's own favourites.
DVD extras include an introduction by Alex Cox and biographies of Kurosawa and Shimura
Japan | 1952 | black & white | Japanese language with English subtitles | 137 minutes | Ratio 4:3