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81 Ikiru 1952 
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Post Re: 81 Ikiru 1952
Ikiru (1952)

Directed by: Akira Kurosawa

Starring: Takashi Shimura

Plot: Ikiru tells the story of a workaholic Tokyo bureaucrat who discovers that he is terminally ill and decides to find meaning in his life.

Trivia: A remake is rumoured for 2010 starring Tom Hanks and directed by Jim Sheridan.

I've seen exactly 23 movies directed by Kurosawa and I feel Ikiru is certainly one of his best films. Apart from effectively telling a tale of a dying man, I also thought Ikiru was a pretty damning indictment of the crippling nature of bureaucracy. Throughout the movie, characters continually pass-the-buck and transfer people across departments without actually trying to help.

Akira Kurosawa is mostly associated with the actor Toshiro Mifune who was his John Wayne (Kurosawa idolised John Ford). A name that comes up less frequently is Takashi Shimura who is the lead actor in Ikiru. Shimura actually appeared in more Kurosawa films (19) than Mifune, but is less remembered because he often played supporting characters.

Here, Shimura-san is very memorable as the lead character (surprisingly Mifune does not feature in this film). Compared to Mifune's usual feral style he is very understated. He does a lot of acting with his eyes and his body (appropriately slumped shoulders throughout).

In my opinion there are two keys scenes, both involving Shimura singing to himself. The first in a bar is the sadder of the two because he is totally depressed with his life. The latter scene is the (in)famous swing scene which is also sad, but also very poignant because
[Reveal] Spoiler:
he has accepted his fate and is pleased that he has accomplished something.


In short, Ikiru is one of the all time great films. Don't just see it, experience it.

How tragic that man can never realize how beautiful life is until he is face to face with death.


Tue Jul 28, 2009 12:38 am
Post Re: 81 Ikiru 1952
Hi Ed

Thanks for helping fill another hole. You've seen way more Kurosawa than me. I'm a novice at a mere 8. Though I have never seen an average K movie let alone a bad one.

Ikiru is also one of my favorite Kurosawa movies. I have only seen it once, but it's definitely on my revisit list.

Everyone talks about Mifune and normally forgets Shimura, nice to hear him get some love here.

I've always felt that this films talks about our lives in general rather than mere bureaucracy. There is a poignancy here that makes you reflect about the life you lead, irrespective of impending death and illness. I found it to be very profound.

I have mixed feelings about this remake... Have to say that I had never heard of it. Jim Sheridan is a fine director, though. There is hope!

Rob


Tue Jul 28, 2009 12:58 am
Post Re: 81 Ikiru 1952
Robert Holloway wrote:
Hi Ed

Thanks for helping fill another hole. You've seen way more Kurosawa than me. I'm a novice at a mere 8. Though I have never seen an average K movie let alone a bad one.

Ikiru is also one of my favorite Kurosawa movies. I have only seen it once, but it's definitely on my revisit list.

Everyone talks about Mifune and normally forgets Shimura, nice to hear him get some love here.

I've always felt that this films talks about our lives in general rather than mere bureaucracy. There is a poignancy here that makes you reflect about the life you lead, irrespective of impending death and illness. I found it to be very profound.

I have mixed feelings about this remake... Have to say that I had never heard of it. Jim Sheridan is a fine director, though. There is hope!

Rob


Glad to help out. I wish it could be as good as unke's stuff, but I guess it will have to do. :)

I've seen so much from the director because I started a Kurosawa journey a year ago and only finished last week.

That remake has been rumoured for some time but there hasn't been anything definitive yet. I doubt that we'll see it in 2010, if ever.


Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:04 pm
Post Re: 81 Ikiru 1952
I remember how stunned I was the first time I saw "Ikiru".
It's a film that can leave you emotionaly drained, a real rarity in our days of fast food entertainment.
IMHO it's a significantly better movie than many of Kurosawa's most famous ones ("Rashomon", "Kagemusha", etc.)

You can really feel the pain and hopelesness of Shimura's character and the veteran actor does an astounding job. It's a real shame that an actor of his caliber isn't more widely recognized.


Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:10 pm
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Post Re: 81 Ikiru 1952
Ikiru

Ikiru is the third film I have seen by Kurosawa, after Seven Samurai and Rashomon. Before I get into my opinion of it, I want to point out that just based on those two, I fucking love Akira Kurosawa. His creation and depiction of characters is fascinating; they are profound yet easy to understand. Part of this process does owe itself to the fantastic work of actors like Mifune and Shimura, but I doubt either would have a reputation had it not been for Kurosawa's direction.

Shimura plays a man stuck in a middle management position in the bureaucracy of post-war Japan. He has been there for decades, and as the narrator tells us right away, has never truly lived. When he discovers he only has 6 months to live, he plunges into confusion and depression. He realizes his plight; he doesn't know his son, and he has no other real relationships. After failing to alleviate his woes through parties and the company of a young girl from his office, he realizes that vitality and happiness are derived from a different source.

I believe that Ikiru can be interpreted in two different ways. The first is the obvious one; doing good for others is the path to happiness. But I think that's too simple. The interpretation I prefer is that you validate your life by deciding upon a goal and setting out to accomplish it. The first interpretation makes Ikiru a film about the destruction of the self while the second makes it about rediscovering and affirming the self. I suppose the meaning you take out of it depends on your own personal philosophy.
Either way, Kurosawa's style (and the Russian literature Ikiru was based on) are not ambiguous works. In this sense, Ikiru is consistent and well written.

Shimura brings the movie to life. Like ed said above, his style is subtle and physical. It's not often you find a protagonist so beaten and defenseless. Apart from this, the acting was pretty good, although it got ridiculous towards the end. I understand they were supposed to be drunk, but if you rewatch the scene at Watanabe's funeral dinner without subtitles on, it's impossible not to laugh. It's just too much.

I wasn't impressed with the cinematography. There were two scenes I thought were beautiful, both towards the end: the sunset scene and the swingset scene. Other than that, I felt more could have been done with the claustrophobic sets that were so meticulously constructed.

The pacing was uneven. The exposition is quick and tidy, but the middle section drags for about half an hour too long. It was cool seeing the Tokyo nightlife, but it didn't make the movie any better. The final act was by far the best. It doesn't completely redeem the first two thirds, but it comes close.

Overall, I have to say I was a little disappointed with Ikiru. I still give it 3/4, but I expected more from Kurosawa.


Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:21 am
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