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In short, Ikiru is easily one of the greatest works committed to film, and no discerning film aficionado should avoid experiencing it. Had Kurosawa directed only this film, it would still be enough to include him in the pantheon of the greatest storytellers who ever lived. Fortunately for us, it is simply the pinnacle of a staggeringly amazing career. It is the absolute definition of a 10/10 film.
Long held shots, hardly uplifting subject, to westerners very foreign. An array of reasons not to see it. And yet, once you actually start getting into the picture it doesn't let you go. Which is why it may be rightfully considered to be a classic.
Of all of Kurosawas film this is probably the one movie that works perfectly on an universal level. Because at its core it is about one of the most basic desires of human existence...namely to be able to look back on your life and say "It was worth it."
In its starch and unforgiving black-and-white form the movie records the time of one man's life in such a beautiful and yes, colorful way, that by the time the final moments of the film play out, it will be very hard for anybody not to be touched. A glorious moment in 20th century cinema, that will hopefully be preserved for decades to come.
This film I would nominate for the golden five of the century!
I first saw it in 1956 or so at a small theater in downtown Chicago. A second viewing, years later, confirmed my initial pleasure!
The old man Kanji Watanabe (in a wholly believable and often heart-breaking performance by Takashi Shimura) knows his life hasn't amounted to much as a (chief) clerk for the city. He knows he hasn't had a great kinship with his son. He's accepting his fate with a heavy soul. One of the tenets of existentialism is that there's free-will, and the responsibility to accept what is done with one's life. Kurosawa might've (as I speculate, I don't entirely know) caught onto this for his lead, and it works, especially with the little details.
Such little details, unforgettable ones, have been expounded upon by other reviewers and critics, such as the drunken, sullen singing of "Life is short, fall in love my maiden" in the bar. A scene like that almost speaks for itself and yet it's also subtle. But one scene that had me was one not too many talk about. It's when Watanabe is in the Deputy Mayor's office, asking for permission so that a park can be built. At first the Mayor ignores him, but then Watanabe begs, but not in a way that manipulates the audience for sympathy with the old man. The mayor must be sensing something in his eyes, desperate and weak, however determined, and it's something that probably most of the audience can identify with as well, even if they don't entirely identify with the character.
But aside from the emotional impact Ikiru can have on a viewer, composition-wise (with the help of Asakazu Nakai, wonderful cinematographer on less than a dozen Kurosawa films) and editing-wise the film is ahead of its time and another example of Kurosawa's intuitive eye. There are some to-tomy shots sometimes (which could be called typical via master Ozu or other), but everything appears so precise on a first viewing, so descriptive. I think I almost can't go into all of them without a repeat viewing, but there were two that are still fresh in me. The first was right as Watanabe was about to sing in the bar, and there were these bead-strings looming in front of the camera. Perhaps mysterious, but definitely evocative.
The other was when Watanabe and one of the other clerks are on a bridge during a dark part of the day. Both characters are in silhouette, and Watanabe gives an indication to the character that he will die soon. But for me, I wasn't even paying a terrible amount of attention to the words. The way the two are lit as they are, with the light in the background and darkness in the foreground, it could maybe give an indication of what Kurosawa's trying to say: we're all not in the light of life, but it doesn't have to be an entire down-ward spiral if the will is good. Whether you're into philosophy (ies) or not, Ikiru won't disappoint newcomers to Kurosawa via his action pictures. A+
Ikiru marks a departure for Akira Kurosawa, a man better known for his samurai films, but it's a welcome departure in my opinion. Kurosawa constantly refers to Watanabe as 'our hero' throughout the film, and at first this struck me as rather odd because, as I've mentioned, he's probably the least likely hero that Kurosawa has ever directed; but that's just it! This man is not a superhero samurai, but rather an ordinary guy that decides he doesn't want to be useless anymore. That's why he's 'our hero'. Kurosawa makes us feel for the character every moment he's on screen - we're sorry that he's wasted his life, and we're sorry that his wasted life is about to be cruelly cut short. However, despite the bleak and miserable facade that this movie gives out, there is a distinct beauty about it that shines through. The beauty emits from the way that Watanabe tries to redeem his life; because we feel for him and are with him every step of the way, it's easy to see why Watanabe acts in the way he does. Ikiru is a psychologically beautiful film.
It could be said that the fantastic first hour and a half is let down by a more politically based final third - and this is true. The movie needs it's final third in order to finish telling the story, but it really doesn't work as well as the earlier parts did. However, Kurosawa still delights us with some brilliant imagery and the shot of Watanabe on a swing is the most poetically brilliant thing that Kurosawa ever filmed. Together with the music and the rest of the film that you've seen so far; that picture that Kurosawa gives us is as moving as it is brilliant.
This is Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece, yes, even better than Rashomon and The Seven Samauri. It is a perfect true story of everybody's life- how we don't even realize we have it until we know it will be over in a short while. Watanabi's quest for self-discovery is one of the greatest from any motion picture ever made. The all-too-true paradox is one to end all paradoxes- that Watanabi is dead, and had been all his life, until he realized he was sick, which is when he began living for the first time. Takashi Shimura, the actor best known for his role as the wise, bald-headed Samauri in The Seven Samauri, and the professor out of the early Godzilla films, plays Watanabi perfectly- in my mind, it's one of the greatest film performances of all time.
Not everyone will love this movie. It was made a long time ago, the main character is an old fogey, it has subtitles, and it's pretty long. Many people today, especially young kids, would find it boring. Well, let 'em. There's no need to worry about them, they'll always have Pirates of the Carribbean, they'll always have The Matrix. Leave Ikiru and films like it to the true lovers of cinema.
I consider Ikiru to be Kurosawa's first truly excellent film. The story moves along very low-key and we gradually realize the power and emotion that is in this great film. Roger Ebert said of Ikiru that it is one of the few films that can actually change the way you look at life after watching it.
Ikiru is the most humane film of this grand Humanist. Kurosawa's story telling skills are sublime, and he has surpassed himself with this movie.
The slow pace and ditto camera movements (except in the night with 'Mephistofeles' where all is logically much more frantic) enhances the story superbly. What a pity some of the nowadays public can't find the tranquility and maybe serenity to watch a gorgeous film like that. That part of the movie lovers will miss a brilliant film, that would have lingered in the mind forever...
When first shown in the USA during the 1950's , all three quickly earned widespread critical acclaim and strong patronage. USA film enthusiasts by then had clearly grown weary of the tired formulas followed by Hollywood studios in the timid post-war years. They welcomed the more thoughtful and challenging films from Kurosawa and from other acclaimed film directors in Japan (Ozu and Misoguchi), Italy (Rosselini, De Sica), France (Troufault, Bresson), and England (Lean).
All of these great film directors were also able to hold and move their audiences while developing somber themes. 'Ikuru', however, is even more deeply philosophical than any other film that I recall by asking what is needed for us 'to live' well.
Takashi Shimura gives an absolutely convincing performance of a tired old man, numb and alone. After learning he has terminal cancer, he learns that dissipation offers no solution. Then he clings to a cute, vivacious girl, taking her to shops and restaurants. She wearies of his dreary, cringing manner but agrees to have one more dinner together.
In the powerful climactic scene at the restaurant, he learns why she is happy in her new job packaging toys. 'I feel all the babies in Japan are my friends!!'
This gives him an idea. He, too, can do something to help children. 'There's still time!!', he cries, and runs off while she stares in bewilderment. He keeps moving quickly towards his cheerful new life.
Shimura reminded me of Albert Camus' essay 'The Myth of Sisyphus.' Sisyphus plods off to yet another day of struggle but has won over the gods, after all, because he is aware of his quest.
'We must imagine Sisyphus happy,' urges Camus. We must also feel the same for the old man in Ikuru when we see how he is reborn and truly alive for the first time.
We begin with 'our hero' (as Kurosawa calls him) Watanabe's stomach x-ray, and we are told that he has cancer. We then see Watanabe sitting at his desk in the Tokyo city civil service, slowly marking a great pile of papers with his little rubber stamp. He sits at the head of a group of people doing much the same thing, shuffling papers from one place to another, and we are told that he has been doing this for 30 years! We see a group of ladies complaining about stagnant water directed from one office to another as the bureaucratic machinery churns mechanically onwards.
Against this background, Watanabe goes to the doctor with his stomach complaint. He meets a strange man who precisely describes Watanabe's symptoms, and tells him that the doctors will lie to him, as the disease is terminal. This comes true and Watanabe realises that he is to die soon. The stunning waste of his life then becomes apparent to him, and in a really powerful scene he falls asleep, crying below a commendation from the office for 25 years of service. He isn't worried by dying, rather he's worried by never having lived.
He stops going to work, he buys expensive sake and goes to the bright lights, but this fails to make him happy. He then spends time with a young girl from the office, and it is on an evening out with her that he realises what he must do. This realisation is combined with a roomful of people singing 'Happy Birthday' for a friend...but it is clear that they are singing for Watanabe's rebirth. Watanabe goes back to the office and picks up the file concerning the stagnant water...he is determined to do something about it after 30 years of doing nothing!
The next section of the film is the real key to its impact. We are at Watanabe's funeral, with a number of the technocrats from the City Council. My expectation was that they would all be complimenting the memory of Watanabe and his achievement in clearing the stagnant water and building a park in record time...but they aren't! I was frustrated...I wanted them to recognise that he knew he was ill, and fought the established order so as to achieve something with his life.
As they drink more and more, they begin to reflect on what Watanabe had achieved. They become emotional, realising that he knew he was ill, and realising that with determination, the system can be used to achieve things. The final scene, however, is of one of the men present at the funeral subsiding below a pile of papers, unable to change anything.
The bitter ending is tempered by the powerful feelings stimulated by Kurosawa during the funeral scene. I reached the end feeling that one man can make a difference if he is determined, and that this can only be achieved by reflecting on your life and achievements, and then making a conscious decision to do something!
Two years before he played the tough lead in "Seven Samurai", Takashi Shimara gave even finer performance in a very different role as a government bureaucrat Kanji Watanabe who seemed to lead a life of quiet desperation at his job and at home. Then, he learns that he has terminal cancer and faced with the fact of death, he first tries to take from life as much as possible and spends the half of his savings on gambling, drinking and women. It leads him nowhere and gradually he determines to achieve one good thing before he dies, and settles on converting a junkyard into a playground for children. Rather than make a feel good movie with co-workers helping Kanji Watanabe in his quest and his family around him at his last moment, Kurosawa portrays him as a lonely crusader no one can understand why this park is so important to him. The answer is very simple he does not have time and he wants to live to see the park open. His family and co-workers don't even know how ill he is what makes some scenes even more powerful and poignant. His words, "I am not angry with anyone, I have no time for that"; the look at his face when asked by a mafia member if he did not care for his life - the film has many quiet but compelling moments like these.
For me, watching "Ikiru" was as close to earth shattering experience as it goes. I think it is one of very few films that could really change one's life. I could not help comparing it to "Cries and Whispers" - how devastated I was by the theme of inevitable death, how ugly it is, and how helpless we all are while facing it. "Ikiru" is about a dying man, too but how hopeful and life affirming it is. The film did not tell or teach me something I had not known before but it confirmed once more that it is never too late to do something even if you have only few months to live.
I truly mean that this is one of the greatest movies of all time. But i have a single problem with this movie.After i saw it , every other movie i see it looks for me a waste of time.
Watch it !!!
"Ikiru" is another beautiful movie of Master Akira Kurosawa. The story is very touching and shows the lifestyle of Japan in the 50's. The performance of Takashi Shimura is amazing and heartbreaking, in the role of a man that finds that he spent his life for nothing: his son, motive of his sacrifice, does not care for him and his unproductive job does nothing but useless paperwork and a pejorative nickname of "Mummy". In the end, a wonderful message that never is too late to live, watch the sunset and plant a seed of love. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Viver" ("To Live")
I just can't see why so many people have trouble appreciating this movie. Maybe because they aren't used to black and white pictures these days.
Ikiru is a movie that can't be missed, so be sure to see it. 10/10
Now, so far, this does NOT sound like a movie most people would want to see. However, instead of dwelling on death and the meaningless of life, Kurasawa goes beyond that. Much of the movie actually focuses on this man trying to find meaning in his life and ultimately deciding to devote his final days to fighting for the creation of a park in some godforsaken part of Tokyo. Despite a general atmosphere of apathy, he ultimately succeeds in getting the park created.
About 2/3 of the way through the picture, the man dies. I thought the movie was over, but then it cuts to a scene at his funeral. A group of bureaucrats and the deputy mayor attend, but few others. What happens next is important, as the movie becomes very philosophical and those in attendance begin to ponder his life and their own as well.
In many ways, this movie is both uplifting and cynical. I won't say much more but encourage you to see it for itself. I will say, though, that unlike Bergman's films (which often have talked about death or mental illness), Ikiru is unusual in that it seeks meaning and goes beyond "life is meaningless and then you die".
No swords are swung, no blood is sprayed in "Ikiru" because this is not a period piece like "Seven Samurai" or "Kagemusha." Set in modern-day Japan, a middle-aged bureaucrat discovers despite his doctor's attempts to hide the truth from him, that he has stomach cancer in that he will die in six months...or less. The bureaucrat, Kanji Watanabe, played by the great Takashi Shimura in what may be his finest performance, mourns over the lack of a real life that he has had so far. At work, one of his unenthusiastic employees calls him "the mummy" because he does live life to its fullest. He has spent his entire life stamping sheets of paper without bonding with his son or enjoying the time he has on earth. As the title would hit, Watanabe decides that he has "to live" before he inevitably dies, and leave something for him to be remembered by.
The ways that Akira Kurosawa tugs on our heart strings is utterly brilliant. The level of sympathy that our souls generate for poor Watanabe is simply amazing as even the younger generations can identify with his fears. I don't think there's a person alive on this earth who is not at least subliminally afraid of the dreadful disease of cancer and the even greater fear of knowing that you only have a short time left to live. Like John Wayne's last film "The Shootist," we develop incredible amounts of sympathy and remorse for the protagonist and the tender moments are truly tear-jerking.
Kurosawa's storytelling skills are displayed to their absolute fullest in the first two-thirds of "Ikiru" when Watanabe discovers he has cancer and then begins to encompass all opportunities that he has left to him. There's a wonderful subplot where he begins to bond with a younger woman who has an unbelievable passion for living. Now this sounds like a formula for a creepy, off-putting payoff, but it does not. Rather, this becomes one of the most enthralling elements of the picture.
Now, I will admit it, "Ikiru" is not, to my mind, a perfect motion picture and therefore it is not on the same level (to me) as some of Kurosawa's other films. The reason why is because the last third of the picture, I'm terribly sorry to say, runs out of steam. It does not stretch out with the same passion and enthralling emotions that the previous two-thirds did. Perhaps it just did not flow through the way I had wanted it to.
But then again, I am still rather young. Film critic Roger Ebert has stated that "Ikiru" was his choice for Kurosawa's best film and that every time he saw it, it became more powerful for him because as he grew older, he identified more and more with Kanji Watanabe. I shall undoubtedly come to cherish and adore "Ikiru" as I grow older. As it is now, in my youth, I see it as a wonderful movie that does a tremendous job up to a certain point where it only runs slow just by a smidgen. Everything before that is absolutely wonderful and absorbing. "Ikiru" is one of Kurosawa's most emotionally-strong pictures and one of the greatest to tackle the subjects of cancer and more importantly, life and death.
A growing band of Kurosawa worshippers has recently named Ikiru as his indisputable masterpiece. Unfortunately, I don't see myself joining the latter soon. Yes, Ikiru is Kurosawa's most deepest and reflective film, though in my opinion it's far from the masterpiece that it's touted to be.
Ikiru is a film best described as 'a game of two halves'. The first hour is vintage Kurosawa. It starts out with an X-ray image of a stomach diagnosed with cancer, and then introduces the film's pitiful lead character Kanji (Takashi Shimura) to the viewers. Kanji is a government official who has been loyally serving his department for many decades.
Upon receiving news that he's suffering from terminal cancer, he decides to take an extended break from work (which he has never done before) to reflect about his life. After some inner soul searching, Kanji realized that he has been missing out on life since he began working. He sets himself on a quest to live out his final months with a motto, "I cannot die until I'm satisfied with my life".
Cancer has taught people that life cannot be taken for granted. Kanji is a character that we can all relate to, from his humble personality to his simple outlook on life. Kurosawa cajoled out a magnificent performance from Shimura, not only was Shimura able to make us feel sympathetic toward his character, but his character was also able to earn our admiration by the end of the picture.
However, Kurosawa is no Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story, Late Spring). Those familiar with the works of these two Japanese legends will know that Ikiru is the kind of story that Ozu would have relished. Kurosawa is simply not as capable in handling intense dramatic material as Ozu.
This is perhaps the reason the second hour of the film fails to capture the greatness of the first. Kurosawa focused too much on the bureaucratic aspects and its faceless officials during the long funeral sequence than Kanji's final farewell gift to the community after an immense struggle involving politics and red tape.
Ikiru's lackluster second half dilutes the film's emotional value. Kurosawa did not have an off day; it's just that he was too ambitious to have attempted such a complex urban drama, though his ambitions have often led him to more successes than failures in life.
GRADE: B- (www.filmnomenon.blogspot.com) All rights reserved.
The film portrays a fatally ill Japanese bureaucrat, Kanji Watanabe (played by the brilliant Takashi Shimura), attempting to reinvigorate his life for the last few months that remain. The opening few scenes depict a group of empowered local women appealing to various bureaucratic departments to clean up a polluted residential playground in their neighbourhood. They are sent hither and thither to various departments to no avail until Watanabe decides to use his clout to see the park restored to its natural state.
Several scenes stand out as memorable: In the early-going, Watanabe's son and young wife (or fiancée) come home only to see the ghastly figure of Watanabe staring blankly in the darkness of their room. The expression on his face conveys his emotional state so well.
Later on, Watanabe is confronted by some threatening gangsters opposing his desire to clean up the park. One of them warns Watanabe that he is "risking his life." Watanabe could not be happier to hear this and smiles jubilantly at the gangster. The gangsters, up to this point very tough and menacing, are startled and confused at Watanabe's sheer disregard for his own life.
Lastly (you should really just watch the movie) there is the scene of a drunken Watanabe tearfully singing a mournful song accompanied by a jazz pianist. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful scenes in all of Kurosawa.
Comparing with another similar movie My life without me, Ikiru was more uplifting and meaningful. Maybe what Watanabe did was too late. But in my eyes it is never too late to mend your way.
Japanese master Akira Kurosawa brought us many excellent movies. For example Shichini no samurai, Rashomon, Ran etc. I think that Ikiru is his best work.
An all time classic. 9/10