Structurally the film is interesting but far from so only in an intellectual sense. Perhaps people would not be so ready to lavish praise on "American Beauty" if they had seen "Ikiru" - a film of the last (half) year of an anonymous, materially successful paper pusher who decides to start (re)living and whose lust for life is reinvigorated by, if not wholly, a pretty vivacious girl. However, "Ikiru" is a much much greater film. The acting, even apart from Shimur'a towering turn, is a class apart and the observation of contemporary life so much more acute and less hackneyed. While the film does not have the wide screen panormamic scope of Kurosoawa's action movies such as "Yojimbo" and "High and Low" it is beautifully shot.
The film is also a rich mix of the uplifting and the critical or depressing. Donald Richie, the pre-eminent Kuroasawa scholar, describes the film as the one time when these competing aspects of Kurosawa's personality met in perfect harmony. That might be a mite critical of certain other films, but is correct with regard to "Ikiru.... Read more ›
As this was the first non-period Kurosawa I chose to watch, I was unsure of how The Professor would handle a seemingly 'routine' drama, away from the excitemnt of his Samurai epics: I needn't have worried. (Strangely, many film buffs who wax lyrical about 'Seven Samurai' etc have never even heard of 'Ikiru'.)
The performances are rock solid and the cinematography is, as always, beautiful. That said, there are still enough displays of Kurosawa's artistry to keep his most fidgety fans quiet.
The story is simple and could easily have been a 140 minute maudlin misery-fest. As it is, this is one of the most touching films I have ever seen.
It treads similar ground to Capra's 'It's A Wonderful Life', but tugs far harder on the heart strings in a much more subtle way.
As the back of the box says (and this is not a spoiler) 'Ikiru' is translated variously as, 'To Live', 'Living' and 'Doomed'. All of these titles go some way to describing the broader topics addressed in the film but none does the finished work justice.
If you have already seen this film and are just browsing, I would recommend Kore-eda Hirokazu's 'Afterlife'.
Not much more need be said.
There is IKURU, then there is the rest.
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