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|Index||154 reviews in total|
Truly one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, Ikiru left me breathless and pondering the meaning of my own existence. The story cuts across all boundaries of race and culture to address the one reality that all human beings must face. The cinematography is stunning, and the acting is brilliant. There is a flashback scene in this movie that may be the greatest sequence ever filmed. If you are an American who is "foreign" to foreign films, this one would be a perfect introduction to Japanese cinema and the genius of director Kurosawa.
This 1952 film by Akira Kurosawa, about a civil servant learning he has terminal stomach cancer, and trying to do something socially meaningful in the last months of his life to redeem his boring and uneventful life, has become a bit overrated. Some people has even called this film a masterpiece. The material is certainly moving, but the movie is stilted and static, the performance of the main actor is of one note, and the dialogue explains often what is obvious to the viewer. Realistic movies were not Kurosawa's forte. One cannot help but notice that at about the same time Ikiru came out such directors as Ozu and Naruse were making much stronger, fluid and unmawkish movies dealing with the everyday life in postwar Japan.
Kanji Watanabe is a widowed bureaucrat as the city's public affairs
section chief. The bureaucratic machine has ground any ambition out of
him. He has slowly climbed up the ladder by doing nothing and therefore
doing nothing wrong. He discovers that he has stomach cancer and
probably only six months to live. He is lost. He doesn't go to work and
takes out his life savings. His son is shocked. He spends a wild night
with a writer but he feels empty. He spends some time with a young
exuberant female staffer. Eventually he decides to make a difference
through his work.
This is a movie that makes one think about one's own life. It is a compelling everyman movie. The last third isn't quite as compelling without Kanji. That part does have a point to make but it could have been done in a shorter way. This is a Kurosawa classic and an important one.
"Ikiru" is a drama movie in which we watch a man tries to find a
meaning in his life after he discovers that he has terminal cancer on
stomach. Also we watch him had some problems with his family and he as
unable to talk to them. After his death and especially in his funeral
we watch his co - workers discuss his behavior over the last several
months and debate if he knew that he had cancer or not and if he had
maybe that it was something that changed his perspective of many
I liked this movie because of the plot which I found very innovative for those times and also very different from these that Akira Kurosawa used us to expect from him. The direction of this movie was made from the master Akira Kurosawa and it was simply breathtaking. I also liked the interpretation of Takashi Shimura who played as Kanji Watanabe and he was simply outstanding on it.
Finally I believe that "Ikiru" is a must see movie because it shows and represents many things according to family and an illness and how this influence a person. Also it shows us how this influences not only the person that has this illness but also his family, friends and people in general.
A bureaucrat (Takashi Shimura) tries to find a meaning in his life
after he discovers he has terminal cancer.
The script was partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's 1886 novella "The Death of Ivan Ilyich", although the plots are not similar beyond the common theme of a bureaucrat struggling with a terminal illness. Though it is an important message, that it is important to reflect. In some ways, this film is the precursor for Ingmar Bergman's "Wild Strawberries" (1957).
Roger Ebert believed this was Kurosawa's greatest film. "Over the years I have seen Ikiru every five years or so, and each time it has moved me, and made me think. And the older I get, the less Watanabe seems like a pathetic old man, and the more he seems like every one of us." Indeed.
"Ikiru" is interesting and effective, and quite a change of pace from
Kurosawa's action movies. (Of course, most of his samurai films were made
later than this one, but it's almost impossible not to think of them
whenever you watch one of his other movies.) It's long, and sometimes quite
slow, but there isn't a minute of it that doesn't have a
Takashi Shimura is memorable as the seriously ill Watanabe. His distinctive performance might take a short while to get used to, but he has many effective ways of getting across what is going on inside as Watanabe searches desperately for something worthwhile. It nicely combines the natural need for a meaning in life with the common frustrations that we all have with bureaucracy ("in some districts, just to empty a trash bin requires enough forms to fill the bin") and other tedious aspects of life. Kurosawa himself gives the story plenty of good touches, most of all in his interesting approach to the last half, with everyone debating what Watanabe has done. It brings out a lot of interesting things in the characters that are worth thinking about.
Just a thought: it's interesting to compare this with Bergman's "Wild Strawberries". They are very different, of course, both in approach and content. But in both cases a great director gives us a thoughtful look at a leading character as he tries to figure out what his life has been about. In any case, "Ikiru" is an effective and memorable look at a life. It also shows that Kurosawa's skills work just as well in something quite different from his more action-oriented movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Can't say I agree with critical acclaim for Ikiru, all critics seem to
be in perfect unison that it's a masterpiece. Perhaps, but also a very
Yes I can appreciate the message about finding your meaning of life and making a difference etc but a film having a serious message doesn't mean it has to drag; Ikiru was very slow and rather long as well. Not a good combination.
What cheered up the film a bit was the female lead, the girl from the office... Ikiru, imo, has only one great scene; The girl showing her emotions at the restaurant, her sheer disgust/pity was quite fascinating to watch. Other than that it was the sad puppy face and slumped shoulders of the protagonist for almost couple hours which sure is memorable but also one note acting.
The wake scene, which consisted of almost last hour of the film, was some sort of critical social commentary on Japanese culture, way of thinking and bureaucracy - but also rather poor storytelling since it was hard for the viewer to relate to arguments by characters that had not really been introduced properly earlier in the film. More emotionally effective would have been to actually witness the protagonist perform his life altering bureaucratic heroics himself.
Well, to be fair, Kurosawa actually did show some of it using flashbacks...It seems that Kurosawa has a fetish for flashbacks, as seen in "Rashomon" as well. Yet those scenes in Ikiru were pretty much protagonist merely nodding and begging in apologetic manner. I found that less than convincing way to get the job done... or to achieve a legacy for that matter.
Oh well, at least they played Pachinko and visited a strip tease show.
But couple breaks from tedium and the life altering philosophy just couldn't save the film from its slow pace, predictability and dare I say rather mediocre cinematography. I'll give it 5/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From director Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), I read a short description about this film after seeing it being featured in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, it certainly sounded like a worthwhile watch. Basically set in post-war Tokyo, Japan, longtime bureaucrat Kanji Watanabe (BAFTA nominated Takashi Shimura) works in a city and spends his whole working life doing nothing at all, just like his other office colleagues. Then one day he goes to the doctors who tell him has a tumour, and after hearing about the consequences of terminal cancer, he is sure this is what he has, stomach cancer, and he is slowly dying. With this looming over him Watanabe wants to find some meaning in the time has left, less than a year, but he is unable to talk to his family, and is unfulfilled spending a night with a novelist. Next has a chance encounter with one of his female fellow office workers, and this encourages him to make a change in the office work ethic, but actually doing something and doing it efficiently. After having some happiness with this woman and making some difference to the bureaucracy, Watanabe does indeed die, and his fellow workers debate about what he did before his death and why, but they resolve to be like him. Also starring Nobuo Kaneko as Mitsuo Watanabe - Kanji's Son, Kyôko Seki as Kazue Watanabe - Mitsuo's Wife, Makoto Kobori as Kiichi Watanabe - Kanji's Brother and Kumeko Urabe as Tatsu Watanabe - Kiichi's Wife. Shimura gives a credible performance as the old man struggling to go on with any kind of regular life with the thought of death, but finding some resolution, and the story in many parts is indeed moving and certainly doesn't disappoint you with you how you feel for the lead character, certainly a must see foreign language drama. Very good!
**** (out of 4)
A man (Takaski Shimura) without a life finds out he's going to die of stomach cancer, which causes a big shakeup in his lifeless world. He becomes friends with two people, one who helps him enjoy a little of life and the other someone who teaches him about leaving a legacy. So far this is my favorite Akira Kurosawa film, just ahead of Rashomon. This was an extremely powerful film about life and death that asks a lot of questions and for the most part it tried to give simple answers. There were countless powerful scenes with masterful direction and a brilliant performance by Shimura but the highlight would have to be the singing during the party scene. This was one of the most haunting, beautiful and magical scenes I've ever seen. Another great moment, showing the fear of death, takes place early on in the doctor's office as another character explains the pain that the man will eventually start to suffer. Another interesting and effective move comes in the change of storytelling with an hour left to go in the film. I wasn't quite sure if this move was going to work or not but the director pulled it off quite nicely.
At the centre of "Ikiru" are the massive issue of mortality and the
thoughtful, poignant performance by Takashi Shimura, but Kurosawa's
direction also managed to find moments of humour in the oddest places. The
wake sequence is brilliant in the way it gets laughs both sad and pure out
of drunkenness and bad logic, satirises bureaucracy and its servants, and
also lets us think about the meaning of life, whether a wasted life can
secure a legacy by attempting to redeem itself near the end, and whether
those attempts at redemption, if successful, actually qualify a life as
The film could perhaps do without so much of the voice-over, which at times explains things a little too much, but that's a small complaint.
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