Jun 2, 2009

7th June 2009: Akira Kurosawa's High and Low

High and Low
A film by Akira Kurosawa
Year : 1963
Country : Japan
Japanese with English sub titles
Runtime :142 min
7th June 2008 5.45 pm
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium
Call 97904 57568

"High and Low" illuminates its world with a wholeness and complexity you rarely see in film. Akira Kurosawa weaves together character study, social commentary and police procedure. "High and Low" fully illustrates why Kurosawa is regarded as Japan's foremost director.
High and Low" focuses on Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune), a powerhouse executive in the Japanese shoe industry. In the midst of an attempt to take over his company, a proposition that throws him in hock down to his own furniture, he's hit by a huge ransom demand, with a twist. Paying the ransom will ruin him financially; not paying it will ruin him as a human being. Gondo's anguish plays against the backdrop of financial intrigue and a more conventional police thriller, as Kurosawa delves into the cops' massive effort to track the kidnaper, led by the sensitive, but briskly ruthless, Detective Tokura (Tatsuya Nakadai).
As Gondo grapples with his choice, the movie acquires a mythic depth -- it's not unlike the story of Abraham, as Gondo is forced to decide between the life of an innocent and fealty to an abstract code. And at the same time, without ostentation, Kurosawa alludes to the more general dilemma of modern Japanese life -- the conflict between humane values and the rigid loyalties that have made for its commercial success.
One aspect of Kurosawa's genius is the way he composes his tableaux to dramatic purpose . "High and Low" is, in a way, the companion piece to "Throne of Blood" -- it's "Macbeth," if Macbeth had married better. The movie shares the rigors of Shakespeare's construction, the symbolic and historical sweep, the pacing that makes the story expand organically in the mind.
The experience of watching this movie where every scene, every sequence, every shot are alive with confidence in the medium, you are totally immersed in the backwash of pure film pleasure, as you're introduced once again to the master.

Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa was` the youngest of seven children, born in Tokyo on 23 March 1910. A talented painter, he enrolled in an art school that emphasized Western styles. Around this time he also joined an artists' group with a great enthusiasm for nineteenth-century Russian literature, with Dostoevsky a particular favourite. Another influence was Heigo, one of his brothers, who loved film and worked as a benshi, a film narrator/commentator for foreign silent films. His suicide deeply affected the director's sensibilities.In 1930 he responded to a newspaper advertisement for assistant directors at a film studio and began assisting Kajiro Yamamoto, who liked the fact he knew 'a lot about things other than movies'. Within five years he was writing scripts and directing whole sequences for Yamamoto films. In 1943 he made his debut as a director with Judo Saga (Sanshiro Sugata), with a magnificent martial-arts sequence.

His early films were produced during the Second World War, so had to comply to themes prescribed by official state propaganda policy. It was Drunken Angel which was Kurosawa's first personally expressive work, made in 1948 and featuring Toshiro Mifune who became Kurosawa's favourite leading man.

For those who discover Kurosawa, they will find a master technician and stylist, with a deep humanism and compassion for his characters and an awe of the enormity of nature. He awakened the West to Japanese cinema with Rashomon, which won the top prize in the Venice Film Festival of 1951, and also a special Oscar for best foreign film. A golden period followed, with the West enthralled by his work. Seven Samurai, Yojimbo etc.

Following Red Beard (Akahige) in 1965 he entered a frustrating period of aborted projects and forced inactivity and when in 1970 his first film in five years (Dodeska-den) failed at the box office, he attempted suicide. Directing a Soviet-Japanese production, Dersu Uzala helped him to recover and took four years to make. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1975 and a gold medal at the Moscow Film Festival.

A true auteur, he supervised the editing of nearly all his films and wrote or collaborated on the scripts of most. His memoirs were published in 1982, titled Something like an Autobiography. In 1989 he won an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. Kurosawa died in 1998.

1 comment:

alotstuff said...

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