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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 ... Asa, Tomekichi's Wife
Bokuzen Hidari ... Kahei the Pilgrim
Atsushi Watanabe Atsushi Watanabe ... Kuna
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

This is the first appearance in a film by Akira Kurosawa of the director's favorite leading lady, Kyôko Kagawa. The two collaborated on five films, including his last, Maadadayo (1993). See more »

Quotes

Sutekichi the Thief: [Mocking Tomekichi] 'I'm a craftsman!'
See more »

Connections

Version of Bez solntsa (1987) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Human Heart in the Depths
3 April 2006 | by yippeiokiyaySee all my reviews

It's one of Kurosawa's most neglected masterpieces. "The Lower Depths" takes us into a ravine tenement, run by greedy, brutal landlords, and inhabited by the lowest of society's strata. All action takes place in two locations: the interior of the tenement, or the tenement grounds.

How amazing, then, is the fascination this film exerts on us, with its very modest settings. I am astonished at the creativity of the film shooting these restricted spaces, in so many varied and telling ways: space expands and contracts as is necessary to the story: the outside is either threatening or an escape, but even once outside, we see that there is no escape, and diagonals show us the human dimensions of restricted choice. Space speaks volumes in the film, accompanied by the beauty of the ensemble acting, expressing profound truths.

We find ourselves engaged in the lives of these people, and puzzled over the character of Bokuzen Hidari as the pilgrim. Is he good? If he is good, and pacifies the dispossessed by acknowledging their illusions, does it mean that self-deception is good? What wonderful ensemble acting! The director put them through long, tough rehearsals, and the result is a seamless film. No wrong notes, no overacting, just a beautiful and strange film that haunts us after we've experienced it. Such invisible, great acting, and humor and pathos.

The character of the actor is the finest piece of work by the Kurosawa veteran Kamatari Fujiwara. It is amazing that this actor appears in such diverse roles as Matahichi in "The Hidden Fortress" and as a corrupt executive in "The Bad Sleep Well". What astonishing range and depth! How brilliantly Kurosawa uses the actor's range! And, of course, we have our beloved Toshiro Mifune, laughing, kicking up his heels in devilish delight, trying to impress the girl, pouting with the landlady, listening with suspicion, then respect to the pilgrim...doing so many things so well, we are bereft when he is absent for the film's conclusion.

And what a conclusion! The harsh clappers that end the movie, the frontal shot of the gambler as he addresses us (for the only time in the film) directly, and the sudden end! Gorky...Kurosawa, Bokuzen Hidari, Toshiro Mifune, Kamatari Fujiwara and the rest....they live on in this masterpiece, for which I am very grateful.


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