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>
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 »
Do you have any idea what sort of person Mr. Kameda is?
I certainly do. I daresay I know far better than you.
That's a lie! You couldn't possibly know.
Why not? Because you only ever think of yourself. Drunk on your own misery, you don't see the grief you cause in others.
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Comparisons between the original book and this film version are rather pointless, not least because the surviving version of the film is half the length of Kurosawa's original. One assumes that the use of bridging text and voice overlay early in the (released) film are there to substitute for action now edited out, anyway the story-lines of the book and the film deviate considerably.
At more than two hours, the film still seems long to me, so I sympathize with the studio. But the main problem for me is the uneven casting. Masayuki Mori, as "the idiot", and Toshiro Mifune, as his rival in love for the courtesan, are unconvincing in their roles. Their scenes together are the weakest and tend to drag.
On the other hand, Setsuko Hara as Taeko (the character corresponding to Dostoevsky's "Princess") and Yoshiko Kuga, as Ayako, her rival for the attentions of the "the idiot", are both exceptionally good. Their one scene together--a great clash of wills towards the end of the film--is riveting.
The other star of this film is Hokkaido in mid-winter. Kurosawa must have commanded great loyalty (or just commanded) from his cast and crew, as there are many scenes shot outdoors in near blizzard conditions.
I rate this 6.5. I do not feel that Kurosawa really has command of his material, even if only half of it made it to commercial release.
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