Following World War II, a retired professor, approaching his autumn years, finds his quality of life drastically reduced in war torn Tokyo. Denying despair, he pursues writing and celebrates his birthday with his adoring students.
An elderly woman living in Nagasaki Japan takes care of her four grandchildren for their summer vacation. They learn about the atomic bomb that fell in 1945, and how it killed their ... See full summary »
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Filmed as a two-part production running 265 minutes. Shochiku (the studio) told Akira Kurosawa that the film had to be cut in half, because it was too long; he told them, "In that case, better cut it lengthwise." The film was released truncated at 166 minutes. See more »
Currently clocking in at a mere 2.75 hours -- following the lopping off of 100 minutes from Kurosawa's (unreleased) original version -- this barely scratches the surface of the plot of Dostoevsky's tremendous novel. Kurosawa modernizes the story and moves it from Russia in summer to Hokkaido in winter. The great Russian director Grigori Kozintsev thought this film captured the spirit of the novel remarkably well -- and who am I to disagree. I seriously wonder whether someone unfamiliar with the novel could follow this film, in its currently disjointed state -- but for those who know and love Dostoevsky's story (and characters), this film is a delight and a revelation. By and large, the actors do a remarkable job of capturing the essence of Dostoevsky's cast. I simply cannot imagine a more suitable Rogozhin (Akama in the film) than Toshiro Mifune -- especially when watching him "merely" standing in the background looking like a bomb ready to explode. Next most convincing was Chieko Higashiyama as Satoko, Ayako's mother not Takeko's as IMDB incorrectly records (Elizaveta Prokofyevna Yepanchin in the novel). This "Edith Bunker as Russian noblewoman" character has always been one of my favorite Dostoevsky creations -- and CH gets every aspect of the character right. Setsuko Hara as Taeko (Natalia Fillipovna) and Yoshiko Kuga as Ayako (Aglaya Ivanovna) are wonderful, as is Takashi Shimura as Ono, Ayako's father (General Yepanchin). Masayuki Mori as Kameda (Prince Myshkin, the eponymous hero of the tale) is hard to assess -- as the "idiot" role is hard to envision. I am not certain that he is the perfect Myshkin, but he is certainly a touching one.
Interlinked with the extraordinarily fine acting, is Kurosawa's tremendous direction here (or what's left of it). I recently also saw an otherwise fine Russian version of "Crime and Punishment", which failed to capture the richness of tone of the novel, missing every trace of any sort of humor (an essential element of the book). Kurosawa, on the other hand, managed to ricochet from melodrama to humor to tragedy without missing a beat -- sometimes within the bounds of a single shot. Frankly, I never would have thought this possible. Another interesting facet of the direction here -- this often looked more like a silent film from the 20s or 30s than a film of the 50s.
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