Ikiru – Essential Art House

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  • In what could be called Akira Kurosawa’s It’s a Wonderful Life, Takashi Shimura portrays Kanji Watanabe, an isolated, inward city office clerk who discovers he has stomach cancer and little time left on Earth. With a compelling, radical narrative structure, Kurosawa depicts Watanabe’s last months and then how his final decisions have affected those left behind. Ikiru is one of the Japa

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In what could be called Akira Kurosawa’s It s a Wonderful Life, Takashi Shimura portrays Kanji Watanabe, an isolated, inward city office clerk who discovers he has stomach cancer and little time left on Earth. With a compelling, radical narrative structure, Kurosawa depicts Watanabe’s last months and then how his final decisions have affected those left behind. Ikiru is one of the Japanese master’s darkest, yet most life-affirming works…. More >>

Ikiru – Essential Art House

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2 Comments
  1. So many of the reviews pontificate on what the film means to them, and about the story and it’s meaning. Yeah, so everyone has an opinion and that’s fine. But most people already have an opinion of the film, and that is why they are on the review page for the film. Some are interesting, but too many go on and on and on. If you are on the review page, what you probably really want to know is how is the sound and picture quality of the disc you are considering purchasing. In the case of Ikiru, the first Criterion Edition was pretty abysmal. Does this edition improve on the previous edition? How about more of that kind of feedback? Until I know that this edition is an improvement of the flickering, white stripe plagued first edition, […]
    Rating: 1 / 5

  2. 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.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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