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Episodes from the lives of a group of Tokyo slum-dwellers: Rokkuchan, a retarded boy who brings meaning and routine to his life by driving an imaginary streetcar; children who support their parents by scrounging or by tedious and ill-paying endeavours; schemers who plot or dream of escaping the shackles of poverty. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
This is a movie about the small scale. What could be more fitting for contemporary Japan?
It's too easy to give Kurosawa his laurels on the strength of the Toshiro Mifune films, his great panoramas of mist and rain, and Fuji, always, shrouded, revealed. Dodesukaden (Dodeska-Den in the US release from Janus) brings you right up into the characters, right into their faces, their homes, their hovels, their dreams. It's billed as Kurosawa's first color film. The composition is phenomenal, really. Each shot, no matter how it moves or how it doesn't, is as wonderfully framed as a painting, as balanced as a beautiful face. The color saturation is complete, and yet they seem to float above the screen rather than clobber you or intrude.
I am astounded by this film. I've never thought of Kurosawa as someone who would know how to handle squalor and the rude life of the bottom of the underclass. I was wrong. There isn't a false step in this picture, from the use of color to the editing to the choice of music and the times it's used. It's as moving a portrait of a community as I'll ever see. Dodesukaden belongs at the top of the canon of Kurosawaa's work, with Ran and The Hidden Fortress next to it.
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