Dodes'ka-Den

"Very Good"

Dodes'ka-Den Review


Dodes'ka-den, Akira Kurosawa's first color film, premiered in New York in the summer of 1971 to mixed reviews and, even for foreign fare, lousy box office. A major argument held that the filmmaker simply didn't know how to use color. The film didn't hit Chicago theaters until 1975 and his next color feature, the vibrant Dersu Uzala, wouldn't hit American shores until 1977. Perhaps out of respect, Dodes'ka-den was nominated for an Oscar, which it lost, rightly, to Vittorio De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.

Dodes'ka-den certainly isn't like any Kurosawa film I've ever witnessed. A junkyard shanty-town of misfits, perverts, gossips, and criminals is its setting... and yet we begin on a note of gleeful innocence. Adrift in a dream life that casts him as a streetcar operator, a young mentally-retarded man (Yoshitaka Zuxhi) prepares his make-believe trolley for its short journey through the slums, all the while repeating the word "dodes'ka-den" which translates, literally, to "clickety-clack." The young man seems to be the central figure and audience proxy for the five or six stories that litter Kurosawa's dire landscape and, fittingly, as the film progresses we see less and less of him.

As with all of Kurosawa's work, especially when invoking post-war themes, the film is mainly concerned with how reality and fantasy merge in day-to-day life. For several of the slumland's inhabitants, it's a taste of the drink that helps blend the worlds together but the film's most striking story deals with a dry and far more nightmarish plunge into one's dream world. A poverty-stricken father and son, living out of a dilapidated car, spend their days building their dream house in the father's head. Obsessed with getting the wall color and the pool dimensions just right, the father ignores his son's minor concerns, notably a friendly cook's instructions to cook a piece of salt-and-vinegar fish to eat.

Though it also deals in tales of incest, swinging, adultery, and euthanasia, Dodes'ka-den's tone is ultimately more sober and cynical than sentimental and cathartic, a pre-cursor to the bleak, destitute cosmos of Harmony Korine and Larry Clarke. In Kurosawa's makeshift town, the bad guys get away or are allowed to return to their little fantasies while youth and innocence are decimated. Shot primarily by Kurosawa's regular cinematographer Takao Saitô, Dodes'ka-den lacks the nuance and the sweep of the master's best work, but the story itself seems to call for a lighter hand.

Kurosawa was never one for buoyant optimism but after what is, overall, a savage, if not pragmatic, tour through the wrecked tin houses of Japan's indigent, he offers a final measure of stunned joy from a dollop of magical realism. The mother of the young retarded man goes inside for the night, her house plastered with drawings and interpretations of her son's imaginary streetcar. Suddenly, the soundtrack bursts awake with the sound of a small train, and the house is lit up by what looks like the headlights of a trolley. The small shack becomes bathed in the colors of the drawings, as if it were the last magic lantern theater in Japan. The hell he didn't know how to use color.

Aka Dodesukaden.



Dodes'ka-Den

Facts and Figures

Run time: 140 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 9th June 1971

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Yoichi Matsue

Starring: as Roku-Chan, Kin Sugai as Okuni, Toshiyuki Tonomura as Taro Sawagami, Shinsuke Minami as Ryotaro Sawagami, Yûko Kusunoki as Misao Sawagami, Junzaburô Ban as Yukichi Shima, Kiyoko Tange as Mrs. Shima, Michio Hino as Mr. Ikawa, Keiji Furuyama as Mr. Matsui, Tappei Shimokawa as Mr. Nomoto, as Hatsutaro Kawaguchi, as Yoshie Kawaguchi, as Masuo Masuda, Hideko Okiyama as Tatsu Masuda, as Kyota Watanaka, Imari Tsuji as Otane Watanaka, Tomoko Yamazaki as Katsuko Watanaka, as Beggar, Hiroyuki Kawase as Beggar's Son

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.