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The Lower Depths (1957)

Donzoko (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 1 October 1957 (Japan)
In a Japanese slum, various residents play out their lives, dreaming of better things or settling for their lot. Among them is a man who pines for a young woman but is stymied by her deceptive family.

Director:

Akira Kurosawa

Writers:

Maxim Gorky (play), Akira Kurosawa | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Toshirô Mifune ... Sutekichi the Thief
Isuzu Yamada ... Osugi the Landlady
Kyôko Kagawa ... Okayo, Osugi's Sister
Ganjirô Nakamura Ganjirô Nakamura ... Rokubei, Osugi's Husband
Minoru Chiaki ... Tonosama - the former Samurai
Kamatari Fujiwara ... The Actor
Akemi Negishi ... Osen the Prostitute
Nijiko Kiyokawa Nijiko Kiyokawa ... Otaki the Candy-Seller
Kôji Mitsui ... Yoshisaburo the Gambler
Eijirô Tôno ... Tomekichi the Tinker
Haruo Tanaka Haruo Tanaka ... Tatsu
Eiko Miyoshi Eiko Miyoshi ... Asa, Tomekichi's Wife
Bokuzen Hidari ... Kahei the Pilgrim
Atsushi Watanabe Atsushi Watanabe ... Kuna
Kichijirô Ueda Kichijirô Ueda ... Shimazo the Police Agent
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Storyline

In medieval Japan, aging Rokubei, his younger wife of four years Osugi and her uncle run a tenement complex at the bottom of a cliff, the complex which from the naked eye at the top of the cliff looks like nothing more than a rubbish heap. The tenants are a group of down-and-outers with some who operate on the far side of the law. Nonetheless, the tenants are close knit community in wallowing in their collective misery, those who care who know their lives will never get better as long as they stay there. The landlords have no compassion for the tenants, they mockingly only stating that the tenants will be given a favorable standing in a future life for any good deeds done around the tenement. The recent arrival of Kahei, a mysterious elderly man, affectionately referred to as Grandpa, who spins tales of the unknown, provides at least hope that there is a better life out there somewhere. Sutekichi, a thief who arguably is the leader among the tenants, and Osugi are carrying on an ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Japan

Language:

Japanese

Release Date:

1 October 1957 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

The Lower Depths See more »

Filming Locations:

Toho Studios, Tokyo, Japan

Company Credits

Production Co:

Toho Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Akira Kurosawa: [weather] In Kurosawa's films, heavy wind is usually used to convey the atmosphere of emotional chaos and disorder, which is why the wind is heard all throughout the film. After the plot's climax, there's a long rainy scene with a somber mood. See more »

Quotes

Shimazo the Police Agent: [drunkenly] Anyway, as I was saying, a tiger means bamboo, bamboo means a sparrow, a peony... a peony...
[He passes out]
See more »

Connections

Featured in The 62nd Annual Academy Awards (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Too Polished
25 February 2005 | by mark-1523See all my reviews

First, I must provide the obligatory warning that this film is absolutely not a good film for introducing a viewer to the power of Kurosawa. Nevertheless, this film is one of his most well-crafted ensemble films. The performance of Bokuzen Hidari as the wandering pilgrim or priest Kahei is his pinnacle in Kurosawa's films. After his comic-relief roles in the more well known films "Ikiru" and "Seven Samurai", this role is Hidari's chance to show his own version of wisdom and authority. Similarly, Kamatari Fujiwara's powerfully sympathetic performance as the alcoholic actor is another surprising demonstration by an actor who had, hitherto, been cast in unsympathetic- even adversarial roles in previous Kurosawa films. As one comes to expect from Isuzu Yamada, her character is a feisty and commanding presence that drives the plot along.

Toshiro Mifune, however, was not the best choice for his role as the petty thief- try as he might to look like a immature and puerile common criminal , the false swagger fails to hide the actor's inherent dignity. Nevertheless, his energy and effort still make his performance believable- if incongruous. In general, however, his unsuitability for his role is the only significant snag in an otherwise fluid and natural performance on the part of all the actors. Also, the sets, as one would expect for Kurosawa, are meticulously detailed, well-lit, and authentic-seeming.

The story- based on the Maxim Gorky play, however, is not that compelling. In part, I think, it is my reaction to a socialistic morality play brought to the silver screen. Also, however, Kurosawa has tried too hard and has polished the performance and settings for too long. As well and smoothly as the actors interact, as convincing they are in their roles, their performance just does not lead anywhere dramatically. However, I saw the Jean Renoir version- a much less refined effort, in my opinion- and had much the same reaction, concluding that the story, itself, and not Kuroasawa's over-controlling treatment is what hampered my engagement.

In spite of that... That is to say... In spite of the fact that the movie's story is not very compelling for me at all, I still have high regard for the film because the acting performances are so solid and engaging. For that reason, I strongly urge devotees of Kurosawa's films to check this movie out at some point while keeping in mind that it remains less than a sum of its parts.


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