One of the Greatest Films of All Time - An Exploration of I
Gerard D. Launay | Berkeley, California | 02/18/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"During the 1950's, my father was a fashion designer who spent months in Japan every year. During that time he came back home and told me he had been profoundly moved by a film he viewed in Japan - a Kurosawa masterpiece entitled "Ikiru." Perhaps a year or two later I had the chance to see the movie - and yes, I too, was deeply, even spiritually changed by the film. Many others, perhaps thousands, have encountered this effect.
The film opens in Tokyo with Mr. Watanabe, perhaps in his early 60's, as a low level office clerk stamping papers for his superiors - actions without meaning. When he starts feeling gastric pain, he visits a doctor and learns, to his horror, that he has only a few months to live and has contracted a painful stomach cancer. Like some who learn they have contracted AIDS or another terminal illnesses, he is forced to review what he has accomplished in his life. In this soul searching, he comes to the conclusion his life has meant little to others.
Scared, he goes into the Tokyo night district and is attracted to a young woman - a person of youth - as if contact with her would change his fortune. But on reflection, he realizes that he must search elsewhere, within himself, for the solution to what matters in his life. Shortly thereafter, he is confronted with a standard document at work, an application for approval to build a playground for young children in the inner city.
In the past, Watanabe would have routinely stamped the project "denied" or taken no responsibility at all...but this time, looking at his life, he decides differently. Of course, Mr. Watanabe, by himself, has no power to approve the project, so he makes it his life's work - for the months that he has left - to see that the children's playground gets approved and is actually built. It is through these efforts that Watanabe's life takes a turn to radiance.
One could argue that the film does not have the technical photographic perfection of, let's say, Director Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai" or "Throne of Blood." Nevertheless in a quiet and profound way, the film is actually more powerful, more moving, more life-affirming. There are several moments in the film that deeply touch the viewers...one in which Mr Watanabe sings to himself a melancholy folk ballad that the young should enjoy life for "life is short." The second is a moment when he observes a gorgeous sunset and realizes that he has not taken the time in his life to contemplate, or to meditate, on the beauty of that experience.
Indeed, I consider the movie one of the 25 best black and white films ever made. Kurasawa's "Ikiru" is therefore not about dying but about life, about living, about the choices we make in obtaining life.
What does the film mean to me, today? In those situations where I falter and need "inner strength," I remember the film to find that secret energy to remain true to my integrity and life spirit."
The Law of Exception and the Loneliness of Enlightenment
Harrison Koehli | 02/14/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Thanks to Criterion for making this masterpiece available. Kurosawa's retelling of Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich is beautiful on every level. No other filmmaker has or had the talent to frame every shot perfectly, while keeping his subject matter deeply human. Kurosawa knew humanity, its quirks, weaknesses, regrets, follies, and most importantly, the heights to which it can soar. Ikiru tells the story of a many who does what proves to be nearly impossible in the lives of most. Upon learning he is to die of stomach cancer, he changes his life. He learns to Live. But as with any tale of enlightenment, of those who gain an inner clarity about themselves, and who live their lives guided by that clarity, in truth and goodness, the majority do not understand. Boris Mouravieff call it the Law of Exception. Like drops jumping from the stream, only a few on the surface ever leave the inexorable pull of dictates of culture. The ones that remain cannot fathom those who have become free. And so, as Kanji Watanabe becomes free, as he Lives and as his work produces fruit born of his Being, those who follow are unable to overcome the resistance of inertia and entropy. A deeply saddening, but equally uplifting film. Highly recommended."
Ikiru (To Dig)
Bartok Kinski | Prague | 06/11/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Ikiru (To Live) (1952) looked very promising, and I am a great fan of Kurosawa and Takashi Shimura. However, within the first six minutes, it was obvious there was a problem with the subtitling. There were no English Subtitles. Most of the dialog went without any sound whatsoever either, and those Japanese subtitles that did appear were often truncated - the sentence would break in the middle. Plus, I can't read Japanese.
Nothing made any sense, and it was just too difficult to try to figure out what was happening. But, eventually, through lip reading and obvious hints, I did. So English Subtitles were not really necessary if you've studied Kurosawa and Japanese film. In all, Ikiru (To Live) is just a silent Kurosawa film.
This may have been a Kurosawa crew problem, as the lower part of the picture seemed slightly out of alignment, and may have cut off the subtitles, and showed only the top line when there was more than one line of dialog.
Unfortunately, I could not figure out any way to re-align the picture, so it may have been a Kurosawa crew problem.
Very disappointing as I had looked forward to watching this movie.
So, basically what I got out of Ikiru (To Live) is to be happy with yourself and to be very courteous to dirty, corrupt politicians."