Ikiru

"Very Good"

Ikiru Review


Viewers familiar with Akira Kurosawa's samurai movies will be shocked to see Ikiru, the Japanese master's meditation on post-WWII society in urban Tokyo.

Takashi Shimura plays Kanji Watanabe, an office worker who lives his life without incident until he discovers he has stomach cancer (which is something of a plague in real Japanese society). Watanabe then endeavors to rediscover a life worth living -- from spending an evening with a drunken novelist, re-experiencing life through the girlish eyes of a young friend, and eventually dedicating himself to the building of a park. In the end, he finally proves he has something to show for a lifetime of labor.

Kurosawa's social drama is slow and quiet, filled with long shots of Shimura's tired eyes and lingering views of a dying man. Ikiru is a bit of a mixed bag, though, thought a masterpiece by some and deemed confusing and meandering by others. Both are correct in their own way: Ikiru is a rare winner as a character study, but Kurosawa's method to getting Watanabe to find his way is roundabout to the point of being inexplicable at times. The result is a story told in fits and starts, reminiscent of the gritty style of the Italian Neorealists, and lurching most notably from the present and into the future after Watanabe has died, wherein a small and weird conspiracy about the creation of the park plays out over the last act of the film.

Frankly, Ikiru would have been better off without its final 40 minutes (which push it to 2 hours and 23 minutes long), wherein a series of strange flashbacks reveal the truth behind Watanabe's condition and his quest to build the park. It's unnecessary and weakens the film as a whole.

This aside, Ikiru is a thoughtful and truly well-made film, wherein Kurosawa has the opportunity to explore the human condition more fully than in his action-packed adventures. More importantly, modern audiences will find a lot to learn about 1950s-era Japanese society, and thanks to Stephen Prince's commentary on Criterion's new DVD, a lot to learn about modern Japan as well.

A second disc on the Criterion release adds a recent documentary about Kurosawa and a shorter film discussing Ikiru in specific.

Aka To Live.



Ikiru

Facts and Figures

Run time: 143 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 25th March 1956

Box Office Worldwide: $55.2 thousand

Distributed by: Cowboy Pictures

Production compaines: Toho Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 30

IMDB: 8.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Kanji Watanabe, as Sakai, Nobuo Kaneko as Mitsuo, son of Kanji, Bokuzen Hidari as Ohara, as Toyo, Shin'ichi Himori as Kimura, Minoru Chiaki as Noguchi, Minosuke Yamada as Subordinate Clerk Saito, as Sub-Section Chief Ono, Makoto Kobori as Kiichi Watanabe, Kanji's Brother, as Deputy Mayor, Atsushi Watanabe as Patient, as Intern, Masao Shimizu as Doctor, Yûnosuke Itô as Novelist, Yoshie Minami as The Maid

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