It's time again for another installment of the Snotty Art Film Hour's Foreign Cinema Roundtable Snootfest!
If you missed our last episode, chronicling my opinions on what I would say are the more common and well-known Akira Kurosawa movies, click here to get caught up. Now on to the new Kurosawa movies, in order of production!
Ikiru - 1952 - Ikiru was a sad, somber movie. A pathetic main character facing a terminal illness realizes how meaningless and mundane his life (centered around the drudgery of an bureaucratic office job) has been up to that point, making his impending death that much more awful. Not really a fun movie, but a well made one. The scene at the end where Takashi Shimura (playing the lead) sings a song while sitting on a swingset is eery and creepy, probably due to Kurosawa's love for slowing down the pitch of recorded singing for effect (also used in the witch scene in Throne of Blood).
The Lower Depths - 1957 - A depressing little vignette of Japanese poverty, based on a Russian play of the same name by Maxim Gorky. Very Shakespearean, and remains comic in tone in spite of the worst of circumstances. Not a favourite, but not that bad.
The Hidden Fortress - 1958 - This should be called Star Wars, Episode 3.9, The Original Hope. There are so many overt influences on Lucas in this, as well as a number of subtle, stylistic influences. This is a good action/adventure film, at least for Japanese movies, and it does fairly well in that regard. But this is the film that inspired Star Wars, and for that it gets a bit of extra distinction.
The Bad Sleep Well - 1960 - Ahh, the corporate subterfuge movies. This is "Hamlet" updated to post-war industrial Japan, with the main character seeking to discover and expose his father's murderers.
Red Beard - 1965 - A young, ambitious doctor gets a very poor assignment working under a wise but harsh older doctor in a rural hospital. This is an amalgam of many smaller stories (of individual patients) held together by the central story, which worked fairly well, but its a bit long at three hours.
Ran - 1985 - Strange to see these movies in colour; this is a good adaptation of King Lear to feudal Japan, but honestly doesn't have the (for lack of a better word) punch of some of the earlier movies. It seems a bit stilted and forced, and wearying to the viewer after a while. Still, what it does, it does well.