Ikiru (1952)

Class: User
Author: Athean
Score: (4.5/5)
May 22nd, 2006 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

To put my review in short terms, "amazing" is simply an understatement for Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru. Of Japanese cinema, the film is possibly the best, and easily one of the best, drama films. While it may not have the action seen in other Kurosawa films like Yojimbo (1961) and Seven Samurai (1954), it is a great display of plot, characters, and excellently executed for Toho's twentieth anniversary when it was made in 1952.

The story follows Kanji Watanabe, an old widower who simply did a lifeless job everyday as a bureaucrat, losing touch with his son and growing older everyday. To top the problems he cannot control, he goes to the hospital only to find out he has stomach cancer. Rather then being diagnosed, he is simply told he has a small ulcer, as the doctor says to everyone. Feeling down that he has what seems to be less than a year to live, he dedicates the rest of his life trying to build a children's park, accomplishing one good thing before he dies of his fatal disease.

The acting in this movie is simply fantastic. Takashi Shimura has never played a better part in any other movie, with the possible exception of Seven Samurai (1954). He simply keeps you there, stealing the show with his excellent performance. The supporting characters are just the same, keeping the movie alive up until the end. The other bureaucrats were simply great, along with the son who shows his true form, simply waiting to obtain his fathers inheritance. While sometimes the son seemed a little over dramatic, he still played an excellent role.

The film doesn't go without flaw, however. The character development, while excellently developed for Watanabe, does not give enough time towards the development of a few of the supporting characters. While they still had a good amount, there was a good chunk left to be desired. Despite such for some characters, the lack of development given to the bureaucrats is great symbolism of the fact they are lifeless in their own ways. It helps show the message Kurosawa was trying to bring up - whether you understood where he was going for from the beginning or you don't know anything about the bureaucracy in Post-War Japan.

While there is not much music in the film, for what there is it is a well-rounded performance. The songs played into the film are all all very strong toned, whether relevant to the plot or scene. The song "Life is Brief" is a near perfect reflection of Takashi Shimuras performance. While it's certainly not the best, it does what is needed when it is needed.

Despite my short review, I highly recommend you rent, buy, or borrow Ikiru. It is simply something you cannot miss out if you can.