32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
A cinematic tour de force,
This review is from: Ikiru [DVD] (DVD)Although very different in some ways to Ozu's "Tokyo Story", "Ikiru" is a similarly masterful analysis of contemporary Japanese life. It is wonderfully acted and observed. Takashi Shimura's portrayal of "Watanabe" the explicitly -if initially ironically - styled hero is truly moving. The scene of his singing "Life Is Brief" is much commented upon but does not disappoint: Kurosawa's instruction to "sing as if you were an outsider whom no one believes exists" clearly connected with Shimura. The look of bewilderment, disappointment and regret is as profound as Victor Sjostrom's look of serenity at the conclusion of "Wild Strawberries".
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." Rightly one of Kurosawa's favourites, it is a wonderful film, especially for those who associate Kurosawa only with historical samurai epics.