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The Idiot (1951)

Hakuchi (original title)
A Japanese veteran, driven partially mad from the war, travels to the snowy island of Kameda where he soon enters a love triangle with his best friend and a disgraced woman.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Taeko Nasu
...
Kinji Kameda
...
Denkichi Akama
...
Ayako
...
Ono, Ayako's father
...
Satoko, Ayako's mother
Eijirô Yanagi ...
Tohata
...
Mutsuo Kayama, the secretary
Noriko Sengoku ...
Takako
Kokuten Kôdô ...
Jumpei
Bokuzen Hidari ...
Karube
Eiko Miyoshi ...
Madame Kayama
Chiyoko Fumiya ...
Noriko
Mitsuyo Akashi ...
Madame Akama
Daisuke Inoue ...
Kaoru
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Storyline

Kameda, who has been in an asylum on Okinawa, travels to Hokkaido. There he becomes involved with two women, Taeko and Ayako. Taeko comes to love Kameda, but is loved in turn by Akama. When Akama realizes that he will never have Taeko, his thoughts turn to murder, and great tragedy ensues. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

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Details

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Release Date:

30 April 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Idiot  »

Filming Locations:


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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Akira Kurosawa in his autobiography describes this film - which was heavily edited from the director's original four-hour-and-twenty-six-minute version, by order of the studio, Shochiku - as "ruinous" to his career. Upon release, reviews of this film in the Japanese press were, according to Kurosawa, universally "scathing." ("It was as if [the reviews] were a mirror reflection of the studio's attitude toward me," he writes.) Not surprisingly, therefore, in the annual Kinema Junpo critics' poll for films released in 1951, The Idiot (1951) appears way down in the list, ranked at #18. Of all twenty five Japanese-language films that Kurosawa released from the end of the Second World War to the end of his career, this film is the only one that failed to place within the "Best Ten" list of films in the Kinema Junpo poll of its release year. In fact, it has been claimed that only the immense popularity of the film's star, Setsuko Hara, prevented the film from being a complete commercial disaster. See more »

Quotes

Ayako: Do you have any idea what sort of person Mr. Kameda is?
Taeko Nasu: I certainly do. I daresay I know far better than you.
Ayako: That's a lie! You couldn't possibly know.
Taeko Nasu: Why not?
Ayako: Why not? Because you only ever think of yourself. Drunk on your own misery, you don't see the grief you cause in others.
See more »

Connections

Version of The Idiot (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

Oh How We Danced
(uncredited)
aka "The Anniversary Song"
Music by Iosif Ivanovici, arranged by Saul Chaplin, lyrics by Al Jolson and Saul Chaplin
Playing on the music box when Ayako and Kamada visit Taeko and Akama
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Dark, Disturbing, Haunting and Beautiful
16 January 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

One of Kurosawa's least-seen films is "The Idiot". The film is set in Hokkaido, the northernmost area of Japan. Deep snow covers the earth, and is shoveled into barriers, seeps in through the ruins of a warehouse in great drifts, piles up against the windows in crescents, howls fiercely as Toshiro Mifune's character and Matsayuki Mori's "Prince Myishkin" step foot off a train into a blizzard.

Dostoevsky's great novel is the resource material.The Prince Myishkin character is Christ-like in the novel, and, as transplanted to Japan may be seen as a Boddhisatva-like character (an Avalokiteshvara or Kanon-a saint of compassion). Matsayuki Mori does an amazing job of portraying a damaged but compassionate soul..one that feels deeply the pain of those he encounters, and who speaks the truth simply, with a pure heart and an awareness of suffering. In one scene, he holds Toshiro Mifune's face between his small, gentle hands, and there is such a tender sensibility, his hands seem to communicate love and absorb the pain of Mifune's character. It is a breathtaking moment.

Toshiro Mifune is brilliantly cast as the thuggish suitor who vies with Mori for the soul of the beautiful and doomed Taeko Nasu character played with uncharacteristic drama by Setsuko Hara.

This complex, rich, layered, frightening, deeply disturbing film has been under-appreciated from the outset-beginning with the studio, which cut the film drastically (Kurosawa was outraged! *see trivia). Japanese audiences didn't understand or like the film, and other audiences have found it weird. Some of this relates directly to Donald Richie's seminal work on Kurosawa and his conclusion that "The Idiot" was a failure. Unfortunately, Richie's conclusion seems to have put replaced the nails in "The Idiot's" coffin with screws. It's very hard to pry open the film.

Sure, it is a weird film...that's what is so interesting. Kurosawa has made one of the most powerfully strange films, while stretching the range of his actors (have you ever imagined you would see Setsuko Hara like this? She's terrifying in her desperation and pain!) giving the scenes a grounded reality, and allowing us to enter into the lives of these tragic, doomed souls.

This is one of the finest films of world cinema, although one of the least-viewed.


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