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The Bad do indeed sleep well in this overlooked Kurosawa...
vikramas110920 February 2006
"The Bad Sleep Well" is a forgotten gem from one of Japan's great masters, Akira Kurosawa. His other two Shakespeare adaptations, "Throne of Blood" (Macbeth) and "Ran" (King Lear), are much more famous and well-regarded, justifiably so if you have seen them ("Ran" is particular is my favorite of all Kurosawa films). However, this sharp and caustic adaptation of Hamlet deserves an equal amount of praise and recognition. It may be the most bleak subject matter that Kurosawa ever tackled - the corruption in the highest levels of government in post-war Japan.

The film begins with a long but funny wedding sequence that illustrates Kurosawa's great skill as a director. We (and the camera) are among a group of reporters discussing the numerous convenient reasons for the marriage; the bride is lame and the daughter of Iwabuchi, the head of corporation, and the bridegroom, Nishi, has aspirations to elevate his status in the business. We see the comedy of manners play out in this sequence in increasingly humorous situations as the various parties deny the rumors and reporters continue comment to each other, culminating in the panicked looks on the faces of the corporate higher-ups as the wedding cake arrives - in the shape of their office building, Public Corp., with a red X marking a spot in one of the windows where one of their former partners committed suicide. It's a virtuoso sequence that perfectly sets up the tone of the rest of the film.

The newspapers have a field day with this, especially when various members of Public Corp. are investigated for fraud and embezzlement, yet they stoically remain silent and the case goes nowhere. Then it heats up again as a few of them commit suicide; the rumors are that they were goaded into doing so (n fact, they were). However, without any substance to press the matter, the case is dropped. And that's when the real story begins - one of the Public Corp executives, Wada, survives and is rescued by Nishi and his shadowy accomplice, Itakura.

This is followed by a brilliant scene in which Wada is taken to his own funeral and observes the farce - all the while, Nishi plays him a tape with Moriyama and Shirai, his former partners, plotting his murder. The way Kurosawa stages this is masterful; the sublime music emanating from the funeral is contrasted dramatically with the cold-blooded words of Public Corp, as Wada listens on. One of the ways Wada contributes is to scare the living hell out of Shirai - Wada poses as a ghost of himself in order to freak him out (a clever method of adding in the ghost in Hamlet). As the plot progresses, Nishi reveals his reasons for saving Wada and exacting a very personal revenge on Iwabuchi and his cohorts; and the story's pace becomes more frantic and exciting with a dramatic but sudden conclusion.

Technically, Kurosawa is at his best here. The wedding and the funeral are both marvels of observational behavior and they contrast each other perfectly. He uses a lot of intriguing mise-en-scene compositions for his interiors that serve to highlight his characters' inner thoughts but very little movement of the camera in order to manipulate his audience; the dark nature of the story is enough to suck you in. One of the fascinating observations in "The Bad Sleep Well" is that nearly all of the characters are morally bankrupt and filled with secrets - even Nishi, the protagonist. His wife, the Ophelia character, is the only one that Kurosawa allows us to feel sympathy for, and even then in the end she is not fully spared her grief. Taken in this context, Kurosawa's Hamlet becomes a study in the morality and pragmatism of revenge but also an incisive jab at the fat cats in modern Japan.

If there is a flaw in the film, it is that the overall pacing is not always brisk enough to sustain the long running time (2 1/2 hours). The wedding, despite being absolutely essential, is protracted; the rest of the film is much quicker but still drags in parts. Also, Kurosawa seems unsure about his ending; the film ends quite abruptly but appropriately in terms of his larger point about the hopelessness of fighting the rampant corruption, I would argue. However, despite these flaws, overall "The Bad Sleep Well" is a masterful and dark excursion into the seedy side of corporate crime, using Shakespeare Hamlet brilliantly but not completely as it's core. Toshiro Mifune in particular gives one of his most unique low-key performances; instead of his usual fiery exterior we get a performance full of internalized anger throughout. Highly recommended.
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Another Kurasawa classic!
M-Petri21 May 2006
I just watched "The Bad Sleep Well," and finished reading the other viewers comments. So I will comment on both. "Seven Samurai" is perhaps my favorite film of all time, and I really like Kurasawa's work. Other than the brief plot summary, I didn't really know what to expect from "The Bad Sleep Well." The beginning can be somewhat confusing, as the reporters throw out lots of Japanese names and the viewer must struggle to understand what's going on and who is who. But as the film progressed, I found myself drawn in and completely absorbed by it. Don't worry if you don't get it at first, all will become clear. I found this to be an excellent film, and I would recommend it to any Kurasawa film. Sure, it's not action-packed like his samurai films. And yes, it is somewhat slow in pace. But I must say that I didn't really mind that. I found it quite engrossing. There are enough plot twists and turns to keep the viewer interested. I din't think that Toshiro Mifune did a bad job either, as some other viewers thought. He's not wild and crazy like in "Seven Samurai" or "Rashomon" but I didn't think he was badly cast. Sadly, I am not intimately familiar with "Hamlet," so I can't comment too much on the similarities. It seems to be the general opinion that this "The Bad Sleep Well" is loosely based on Hamlet, but I also agree that this won't detract from your enjoyment of the film in any way, and that knowing "Hamlet" doesn't mean that you will know what happens in this film. I agree with those who say that this is another underrated Kurarsawa masterpiece, and well worth seeing. Give it a chance!
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Under appreciated Kurosawa masterpiece
Tequila-1813 October 1999
At the start of this film I didn't know what to expect. I thought it might be a mediocre Kurosawa film. By the end of the film I realized it was one of his best. This film about familial discord and corporate manipulation is breathtaking. Its filled with irony, double crosses, cynicism, manipulation and revenge. In short, its endlessly interesting and captivating. Definitly a must see.
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One of Kurosawa's best
maurazos11 February 2007
I am watching Kurosawa's full collection and the more I watch, the more I love the art of "The Emperor". And unlike many Kurosawa's fans, my preferred films are those that talk about the time Kurosawa lived, not about the samurai ages. Again, Kurosawa uses the literature classics (for this film, Shakespeare's "Hamlet") as a source for his stories, proving that the subjects they talked about are still modern. Anyway, the genius of Kurosawa is quite big to make their film be not just a cinema remake of those texts, but an original, exciting plot. And again, Kurosawa gives us a film with a clear and worrying social message, a denounce to a serious problem (company and state corruption that even today still darkens the image of a "100% legal" Japan). A film to enjoy and film to learn about Japanese society and life in a general way.
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Something's Rotten in the State of Japan
gvb090717 September 2002
Akira Kurosawa's "The Bad Sleep Well" is too dense and frankly too slow a film to qualify as a thriller in the usual sense. Although the elements are there - intrigue, double crosses, revenge, and crimes both naked and invisible - the pacing is too deliberate and there is little real suspense.

Yes, it's "Hamlet," though in a subtle, understated, Japanese way. Some of the characters are left out, but you'll eventually spot the Prince, Horatio, Ophelia, and Claudius. However, unlike his "Macbeth" ("Throne of Blood"), this is only a partial transposition and Kurosawa wisely does not carry the parallels too far.

Although it takes patience, the picture has its rewards. The performances are good, especially Masayuki Mori as the reptilian manipulator Iwabuchi, Kamatari Fujiwara as the hapless accountant Wada, and, as always, Takashi Shimura as master bureaucrat Moriyama. The sharp black-and-white cinematography gives the film a photo-journal aura of authenticity. And Masaru Sato's wonderful opening theme, heavy with menace and unease, certainly sets an appropriate tone.

Toshiro Mifune as Nishi/Hamlet is unusually restrained here, his normal fire largely internalized. He's adequate, but this casting against type doesn't really suit him.

"The Bad Sleep Well" is Kurosawa's attack on Japan's post-war business corruption that apparently was endemic by 1960 and perhaps still is today. His critique is harsh and unsparing, though one can't help but get the feeling that he's shooting at fish in a barrel.

Beyond the corruption of the corporate scandal, which the film literally headlines, is a strong sense of inner decay. Nearly everyone, regardless of their position, is uncomfortable. Even Iwabuchi, for all his power, must answer awkwardly to greater, unseen forces. Only the jackal-journalists who cover the opening wedding banquet seem immune to the pervasive uneasiness.

Yet all, save Nishi, are prepared to accept this state of affairs in return for their security. Ironically, Nishi himself seems most comfortable in an old air raid shelter in the ruins of a munitions plant, his own "castle", as it were, where he fights for honor as he understands it.

Recommended for Kurosawa fans and anyone interested in Japanese psyche, culture, or style. Those expecting a slam-bang 1940s Warner Brothers treatment will be extremely disappointed and probably won't last an hour.
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Kurosawa in top form
RussyPelican5 November 2007
The Bad Sleep Well is one of the best revenge movies of all time. It stars the great Toshiro Mifune as a man seeking revenge against the people who forced his father into committing suicide. Unlike many revenge movies, The Bad Sleep Well doesn't glamorize its subject. Instead it shows how in trying to get retribution for a man who is now dead, Mifune ends up injuring himself and other people he loves who are still alive. There are a lot of beautiful and haunting images, like when we see a desperate man struggling to climb a volcano so he can throw himself in, or a number of scenes that are shot at the bombed out wreckage of an old WWII munitions plant. The bleak landscape mirrors the damaged lives of the movie's characters. Powerful and haunting, this is a movie that will follow you for days.
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Kurosawa does Nippon Noir with style
Hanichi22 March 1999
The Bad Sleep Well is a great film, with excellent acting from all the actors, especially my favorite Japanese actor, Takashi Shimura as Moriyama. Kurosawa shows in this film that no one can or will ever top his skill at doing tableau shots. The wedding scene in the beginning of the film, where the reporters are standing just outside the doors of the reception hall, commenting on the goings on within, is fantastic. The ending seems very abrupt, almost as if they ran out of time while making the film, keeping this one out of the same league as other Kurosawa classics (7 Samurai, Stray Dog, Yojinbo).
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"Now all Japan has been hoodwinked"
Steffi_P20 February 2007
For his first film made by his own independent production company, Kurosawa decided to take advantage of his new creative freedom to make his most politically daring picture to date. He takes on the corruption rife in corporate Japan in a film noir of almost epic proportions.

This was Kurosawa's most stylised film so far. He takes a nasty, tragic film noir plot-line (and yes, there are elements of Hamlet, but not enough to call it an adaptation) but plays it at some times as if it was a farcical comedy, and at others like it was a horror. The villainous characters appear slightly ridiculous and even cartoonish. Only the most senior amongst them, Iwabuchi, is allowed to keep his dignity. While the others are just puffed-up minions, easily toppled, Iwabuchi seems truly immovable.

The establishing scenes are the film's strongest. It opens, like The Godfather, with a lengthy wedding scene which serves to introduce all the principle characters and set the tone. Everything about the way this scene is put together tells us this is not the happy occasion it should be – the hall where the ceremony takes place echoes off-puttingly, a company official about to make a speech cringes as champagne corks go off behind him like gun shots. Add to this an interruption from the police, a gang of journalists and photographers waiting in the wings, and a best man's speech that turns from jokes to threats, and you can practically taste the corruption and decadence that is the focus for this story.

The wedding scene is followed by a montage of newspaper headlines and newsreel footage, reminiscent of similar devices used by Frank Capra and Raoul Walsh. Kurosawa brilliantly choreographs this sequence to music, a rather eerie little dirge more typical of a Japanese period piece than a modern thriller. It's the only example of this kind of montage I know of in Kurosawa's work (it was rare for him to expand the narrative to the bigger picture), but it's a highly effective one-off.

The central plot, of Nishi (Toshiro Mifune) orchestrating spectacular revenge against the men who killed his father, is full of amazing set-pieces. There are echoes of Hitchcock in the way Kurosawa shoves significant objects right up to the camera. The use of music is dazzling, combining upbeat music with unnerving moments to give a great sense of irony. Nishi is the last person the villains suspect, and he often appears innocently in the background with little more significance than an extra, although of course the audience knows better. It's a nice touch that Kurosawa has the character wear glasses, making Mifune almost unrecognisable to us as well.

Sadly, the film's pace slows down after the first hour, and rarely gets back to the same dizzying heights for the rest of its 145 minutes. The lengthy runtime does however allow Kurosawa to add a depth that is absent from your average 100-minute Hollywood Film Noir. Kurosawa could be bleak, but he never forgot the humanity in his films, and this is really the focus in the second half of the film. He takes time to put the spotlight on the innocent victims of revenge (Nishi's wife, Wada's family), and even show the arch-villain in moments of warmth and tenderness with his family. And this is perhaps where the story's biggest similarity with Hamlet is – Nishi's revenge falls apart because he is unable to be totally ruthless and unfeeling.

As for the acting, Masayuki Mori is particularly good as Iwabuchi. Just look at his reaction when the second wedding cake pulls up behind him – remaining calm, but clearly suppressing concern and annoyance. Kamatari Fujiwara and Akira Nishimura give great over the top performances as Wada and Shirai respectively. Unfortunately this is not one of Toshiro Mifune's great performances. Mifune had an incredible range, but somehow he doesn't quite work as Nishi. In particular, for me he doesn't quite get the emoting right when he begins to realise his feelings for his wife.

Kurosawa always liked to be making some kind of point with all his films, something which sometimes got in the way of decent storytelling. The Bad Sleep Well is a political soapbox picture if ever there was one, but luckily in this case that doesn't water it down quality-wise. True, it is perhaps a little too long, and there are a few dull stretches, but Kurosawa's direction was still at its peak and this stands as one of his best contemporary-set pictures.
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Classic film-noir - spoilers herein
Marc Fairbrother14 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I have just started watching Kurosawa's film-noirs, and this is the second one I've seen so far. The first one I saw was Stray Dog which I believe is slightly better paced than this one which gets a bit too slow in some parts.

The photography is simply magnificent, the depth and the contrasts really bring the characters to life, Kurosawa's directing is at its best with many great shots. The acting is also very good, especially Toshiro Mifune, but not only him, the other characters, both the "bad" and the "good" are very well portrayed.

The plot is quite complex to understand at the beginning. The reporters in the opening scene of the movie who comment the marriage act like a classic theatrical chorus, it's quite confusing because they mention many names and events. But as the story unfolds the pieces start to fit together and everything starts to appear clearly until the revelation of Nishi's true identity. From then on the movie turns into a revenge-story. The ending is so shattering that all that's left to say is "The Bad Sleep Well".

I give this movie an 8/10 because I don't give 10's and as I said it's slightly too slow at times. The best thing about the film is that it simply DOES NOT compromise.
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wonderful and often overlooked
MartinHafer25 May 2005
While the Seven Sumarai and Rashomon are wonderful Kurasawa flicks, too few people are aware that he made other great films that are NOT samurai films because they are rarely seen in the United States. Only osscasionally, they are shown on Turner Classic Movies or other channels and should not be missed.

One of the best examples of this is this movie. The Bad Sleep Well is extremely well-written and acted and keeps your attention from start (the cake scene) to finish (the final showdown). I love how Kurasawa does NOT follow the expected path in this and his other pictures. Anyone wanting something DIFFERENT should give Kurasawa a try. In addition, I would strongly recommend Kurasawa's Madadayo ("Not Yet") or Shubun ("Scandal") as among his lesser-known flicks you MUST see. Among his slightly more famous, try Throne of Blood (a GREAT remake of MacBeth) or Yojimbo.

FYI--this story is a slight re-working of Hamlet, though you might not notice it unless you are looking.
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American setting with Japanese story.
bobsgrock23 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
There is no doubt that Akira Kurosawa had great affection for the rich history of his native Japan. Watching films like Rashomon and Seven Samurai show his attention to detail and his desire to make those stories as authentic as possible. However, Kurosawa also thoroughly enjoyed American novels and stories as well as anything Western-related. In this film, he borrows heavily from American dramas of the time using similar costumes, set pieces and locations to showcase a story that some say is reminiscent of Hamlet, though I don't know.

As the story opens, we know very little and through the first ten minutes or so we know even less as we see all the events happen through the media's point of view. Then, we follow Nishi, a hardworking secretary who married his boss' daughter in the opening credits. As the story unfolds, we learn Nishi's father was forced to commit suicide and he is after revenge on the men responsible. Kurosawa masterfully keeps us in the dark for practically the entire time so that the only time everything really comes together is at the end. Toshiro Mifune does a good job of playing someone who keeps most of his emotions bottled up despite having played very extrovert characters before. I would say if you like Kurosawa to give this a chance. It isn't one of his best, but the plot is intriguing, the acting is convincing, and the films looks great as well. It may be a little long, but that is small potatoes to what is going on here.
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absorbing drama
Charles Herold (cherold)1 September 2005
I haven't been that thrilled with the previous non-period piece movies of Kurusawa, so I was pleasantly surprised by this one. While it lacks the high style of films like Rashomon and Yojimbo, this is a compelling story . This movie is very Japanese. It is hard for me to comprehend the Japanese corporate structure shown in this movie, and it made me think of an American I met who has lived in Japan for years and says the more you see of the Japanese the more you realize that you don't understand them.

This creates an interesting dilemma in terms of analyzing the movie, because a lot of the actions and motivations are so odd that if I saw them in an American film I would consider them examples of a poorly thought-out screenplay. But I accept most things in this movie as simply being very Japanese.

This isn't to say that everything in the movie is nuts. Human nature is human nature, and the themes of corruption and revenge work in any culture. The story itself is well laid out and intriguing, and the acting is excellent throughout. My only real objection is to something that happens near the end, more for the way it was presented than for what happens, but perhaps once again this is something that would seem perfectly sensible if you were Japanese.

This movie might deserve an 8. My enjoyment of it was somewhat spoiled because I've developed cataracts in both eyes and reading subtitles is difficult, meaning I was less able to immerse myself in the movie. But definitely worth watching.
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Kurosawa's unforgettable tale of corruption
Patryk Czekaj18 September 2012
In times of increasing significance of the corporate underworld and its impact on the society, Akira Kurosawa's The Bad Sleep Well (Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru) proves to be a gritty and compelling achievement, able to spur further the ongoing, controversial debate about the 'big business' corruption in post-war Japan. Even though it marks the director's yet another allusion to Shakespeare's works (this time it's Hamlet), and looks as though it's been deeply affected by the American crime films from the 40's and 50's, it still indisputably reveals Kurosawa's auteur approach to his own works.

It starts off with a very long, more confusing than inviting, scene of a wedding. Even before the newlyweds shop up on screen, the audience sees a couple of policemen barging in, and a group of nosy reporters trying to spot a scandal in this seemingly uneventful ceremony. And for their own great amusement, a distressing tension soon begins to develop, because of a sudden reminder - a cake that looks like the Public Corporation's main headquarters, with a mysterious X placed in one of the windows - of a terrible accident that took place some time ago. The distressing atmosphere makes way for some shocking revelations, which in fact turn out to be a sufficient introduction of all the main guests. Yoshiko (Kyoko Kagawa), the crippled daughter of Iwabuchi (Masayuki Mori), vice president of the aforementioned powerful corporation, is getting married to a man named Nishi (Toshiro Mifune), Iwabuchi's personal assistant. The reports take a suitable position of social commentators, making open and derisive remarks about the past events, and one man's (known as Furuya) suicide that actually postponed the thorough investigation of the company's wrongdoings five years ago. Possessing a bitter, melodramatic touch, this scene is definitely one of the most explicit ways of presenting sheer emotional terrorism in film history. With subsequent talks of corruption, and next wave of interrogations, one of the corporation's employees commits suicide, and another one – Wada - is on his way to do the same on top of a volcano. However, he encounters Nishi, emerging from a murky mist. In this visually stunning, tranquil scene, Nishi shows his deep anger and ferocious nature. While everyone thinks that Wada died atop of the mountain, he is forced to join Nishi in what soon proves to be a revenge plot. Wada's shady persona is cleverly used as a mean to scare other high-ranked workers, and make them literally go mad. First on the list is Shirai (Ko Nishimura). Being mentally abused by Wada's 'ghost' appearances, he becomes a fall guy in the masterfully crafted plan. The film's greatest mystery is revealed in the exact same room, from which Furuya jumped five years ago – Nishi happens to be his son, and now seeks bloody revenge for what was done to his father. One of the movie's recurring themes is hidden in the corporate culture, which boldly states that lower workers should willingly die rather than expose their superiors' secrets.

An ingenious turning point in the movie's storyline shows its true face when Iwabuchi, and his closest companion Moriyama (Takashi Shimura), discover that all of the mysterious signs (the cake, a letter in a deposit box, the room where Shirai went mad) point to a dangerous conclusion: someone close to Furuya is plotting a revenge. At the same time, Nishi, who never loved his wife and married her only to get closer to her evil father, gradually begins to have feelings for Yoshiko. And even though he initially wanted to see all the 'bad' men dead, he decides that driving them insane will be just enough. Unfortunately, his avenger-like attitude proves to be his own demise, as he soon finds himself trapped in the risky game of cat-and- mouse. While Nishi tortures one corporate officer after another, Iwabuchi's clever instincts make him realize that his own poor daughter is the key to unraveling the whole mystery. His cunning plan to make Kyoko expose her husband's hideout quickly comes to fruition. And then, after an intense and strictly emotional finale, Nishi's death is announced. Silenced, just as his father, he won't be able to tell the whole world about the corrupted life and cruel actions of the Public Corporation's officials. Yet again, the bad may sleep well in their comfortable beds.

With its conspicuous noir overtone and huge emphasis put on the steady black-and-white cinematography, The Bad Sleep Well is both a straightforward critique of the corruption in contemporary Japan, and an engaging tale of one man's impossible journey to avenge his parent's death. While it might seem a bit too long and uneventful at times, it is a highly rewarding film with insightful social commentary and powerful message displayed in its vivid images and clever dialogues, strengthened by Toshiro Mifune's bewildering performance as the withdrawn, yet ostentatiously explosive, protagonist.
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Intense and gripping noir classic
LouE1514 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
One of the world's great directors (Akira Kurosawa ) paired again with one of the world's great actors (Toshiro Mifune) in a noir attack on corporate corruption. Kurosawa is a consummate storyteller, with a genuinely all-seeing eye. I don't know enough about film theory to tell you exactly why it is his films work or are great; I can only compare them to my other experiences watching a wide variety of films, and his are entertaining, morally complex, living things, that fed from, and into, western cinema, bringing a something very Japanese in terms of both storytelling and acting style. He seems to elicit emotional responses, without seeming to try. All the best acrobatic feats have this effect, and this, I think, is one reason why Kurosawa is a great director. Mifune has an intensely charismatic presence: you feel he really gives of himself in every performance. Actors today who remind me of him are Tony Leung ("In the Mood for Love") and Christian Bale. This probably isn't his best showcase, though: check out "The Seven Samurai" and "Yojimbo", among his best.

In "The Bad Sleep Well", Nishi seeks revenge for his father's 'suicide'. Hiding behind thick horn-rimmed glasses and a formal, reserved image, he mercilessly hunts down the 'Corporation' leaders responsible, and no target is too great, or price too high, to pay. Apparently this takes the 'Hamlet' model for its story, but I don't really care about that. Any story, however old and continually retold, can be invigorated by an entirely new, and skillful perspective.

The wedding scene is absolutely extraordinary; the way the tension is slowly ramped up, the vague (and not so vague) feelings of unease, the differing perspectives on it, the silence. In such a charged atmosphere, the smallest detail – the bride, who limps and has to wear a specially raised shoe, stumbles, and the groom is notably not the first to rush to assist her – takes on significance and high drama. The journalists who crowd the edges of the scene act like a Greek chorus, with their sardonic comments about the proceedings.

The other amazing scene, showing skillful use of sound, is when Nishi forces a worker who was ordered to commit suicide to watch his own funeral, and to listen to a recording of his callous bosses in a nightclub. The louche bossa nova plays swooningly out over scenes of the man's wife and daughter at the ceremony, seen through a car window, bowing repeatedly as a succession of mourners pay tribute. The chanting of the monks can be heard in the background, and at the moment when his bosses are before him, bowing to his family, their heartless voices can be heard on the nightclub recording. The man's desperation at the climax of this scene is very moving. It's masterfully done. All Kurosawa's films, but particularly "High and Low", exhibit his extraordinary use of sound, music and dialogue. The savage, dismal end of the film – and the bomb-devastated surroundings – seem to reflect strongly the sense of moral dismay, of waste and shame and corruption.

Don't get caught up – or put off - by the whole 'great director' thing; likewise, don't let the subtitles or that it's black and white make you glassy-eyed. If you can strip your mind of the need for modern day filmic tics, you'll find this an engrossing and intelligent drama.
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Faithful film-noir homage
woofan215 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A film that I have had on my shelf for quite awhile until I became ill and started watching films I have never seen. I am a huge fan of Kurosawas' work. This is a change of pace for him. Set in the 1960 era in Japan. A corporate tale, of deception, extreme loyalty to the point of committing suicide rather than bring shame to their company. A kick-back scandal erupts in the newspapers. Various officers of the corporation start doing their suicide thing. Tushiro Mifune in an under-rated performance plays the secretary of his new father-in-law. Bent on revenge for his fathers' "forced" suicide. I won't review entire film but the ending was kind of shocking for me. The death of Mifunes' character adds to the true to life noir feeling of the in a way the ending should have been expected yet still surprising. I love the old cars in the film and Kurosawas' use of the flashlight as a lighting device in the film....the ominous chiming of the clock in the background acts as a foreshadowing device...a change is coming...for good or bad. Definitely a must see...Criterion edition does a great job again...subtitles are sharp and the deep focus Kurosawa used is well demonstrated here....a gem of a film....
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The biggest sleeper Kurosawa did
Atavisten30 March 2006
I tried three times to watch this, but never succeeded to pass the 40 minutes mark. It is a Kurosawa movie, I know, but for all that I adore his movies this is so dry I just couldn't take it. Probably it is good if you're interested in the subject of corporate corruption (I am) and can understand all the underlying gradations(?). For all non-Japanese however, this is so slow and boring you'll start thinking about watering the plants.

And I didn't like to hear Wagner in a Japanese movie, but that's my problem. I know he was accused for being too westernized in his time. Here I think they were right.
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Unique experience; jaw dropping.
Premitive127 March 2004
This is quite an amazing movie. I never expected to get out of it what I did.

The acting is amazing. I couldn't understand what they were saying but their emotions were so well conveyed. This is definitely one of the strong points: the emotions are so well expressed [especially in Shirai, you couldn't tell he was faking it].

The story is so complex and encompassing and the ending is simply awesome.

I guess its that US movies, new and old, are nothing like these types. Its sucha great experience.
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Great watch but a tad too long
Lawson27 May 2009
I enjoyed Akira Kurosawa's medieval adaptations of Shakespeare (Ran, Throne of Blood), as well as his contemporary thriller, High and Low, but I have to say this contemporary thriller adaptation of Hamlet is the weakest of the bunch.

Not to say it's bad - it was still a great watch, just that it was way too long at 151 minutes. It's pretty amazing how Kurosawa made such a contemporary movie back in 1960 that it still feels fresh today. His direction is mostly tight and suspenseful and the movie is further augmented by an effective score and good acting all around, especially by Kurosawa stalwart, Toshiro Mifune.

But overly long it is, and less interesting scenes had my attention wandering. Maybe I should blame Shakespeare instead. Gawd knows I already find him long-winded and boring.
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Good, but I wanted to like it more
MortalKombatFan114 February 2015
While enjoyable, the film to me was very long and drawn out in it's pacing, but it has moments of brilliance and Kurosawa's usual artful directing style. Toshiro Mifune is rather restrained and against type, but it suits the film well. His character marries into a family of wealthy, corrupt bureaucrats who have a tendency to not get caught, silencing any dissenting voices, especially from any employees who don't play along. "The Bad Sleep Well" has it's fair share of twists and turns, playing out like a film noir, with a distinctive Japanese twist.

After recently watching Kurosawa's masterful ransom drama "High and Low", this movie comes off as a bit of a let down, mainly because I felt the story didn't need to be as convoluted as it was (the opening marriage scene, for example, has all the main players and their back stories hurriedly introduced by a group of observing reporters) and from the start it was a bit hard to follow along and be as connected with the characters and plot as I'd have liked to have been. In saying all that, the ending is brilliant, lending great dramatic weight to the proceeding events as well as being completely surprising.
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Master piece
kusagami9420 October 2013
''Japanese legend Toshiro Mifune plays Koichi Nishi, the seemingly stoic bridegroom who is trying to get ahead by marrying the boss's daughter, Kieko (Kyoko Kagawa), who was crippled as a girl. The bride's brother, in a shocking display, exposes the groom's motives during his wedding toast and threatens his new brother-in-law with death if he disappoints his sister. But Nishi is not who we think. He was born the illegitimate son of the man who Kieko's father, Iwabuchi (Maysayuki Mori), manipulated into suicide. Now Nishi wants revenge for his father's death. As Nishi slowly destroys Iwabuchi's life, he makes the fatal error of falling in love with his wife, who already loves him. Their unconsummated marriage stands between these two like a palpable pillar of stone. But just when we think the stone has been tossed aside by love, Iwabuchi finds out who his son-in-law really is.

Shot in black and white, this film falls just short of being brilliant. Mifune is amazing in his portrayal of this complex man who lets his father's past destroy his own future, and Maysayuki Mori's performance as the evil Iwabuchi is understated but nonetheless chilling.''

~Luanne Brown
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A fine film even if not Kurasawa's best
TheLittleSongbird1 July 2012
The Bad Sleep Well is one of Kurasawa's most underrated, and while not his best or one of my favourites it is towards the better end of the spectrum in regard to his movies. The movie is perhaps a little too long, but so much compensates. Such as the superb cinematography(always deliberate yet with something always to see and admire) and direction(subtle while not undermining the sombre and sometimes tense tone), and the beautifully compositioned scenery. The music is often haunting, while the story(loosely based on Hamlet) while not quite as riveting as High and Low is interesting with an astonishing sequence involving Nishi and Wada at his own funeral and a suitably bleak ending. Toshiro Mifune plays one of those characters that goes to extremes but you do feel pity for him, and Mifune acts with his usual charisma.

Overall, I can think of better films from Kurasawa but I was very impressed with The Bad Sleep Well first time on viewing and still hold it in high regard. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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A corporate secretary uses a false identity in order to wreak vengeance on his father's killers and expose corporate corruption.
ajoyce-222-93561228 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Once again we must bow at the feet of the master. Kurosawa's postwar Hamlet is rife with irony in its skillful, profound handling of the perennial 'question of evil.' The protagonist Nishi finds himself gradually becoming as corrupt and brutal in his own way as the degraded men he seeks to expose. Fallen corporate executive Wada and Nishi's wife, the daughter of the corrupt Public Corporation's CEO Iwabuchi, remain just about the only truly innocent characters. Even her brother is motivated by homicidal revenge.

Then there's the irony of Nishi using underground ruins from a World War II bombing to hide his captive in. Kurosawa thus emphasizes the 'descent to hell' in a striking visual metaphor near the end of the film when Nishi's clever gamesmanship has resulted in him having to commit serious crimes in order to carry out his scheme for revenge. The setting may also double as an ironic commentary on the after-effects of the war on Japanese society in general.

This so far is the most American Kurosawa film I've seen: the cars, clothes, the men's hair and some of the characters' mannerisms—even the executive Iwabuchi lives in a Western- style home. Is Kurosawa saying that American ways have corrupted Japanese society? That would have been shockingly bold when the film was made in 1960, with American money still pouring into the rebuilding of Japan.

In many ways The Bad Sleep Well is also Kurosawa's tribute to the American film noir genre. Take away the Japanese dialogue and the urban Japanese setting and imagine it in Chicago or New York or LA, and even esthetically the look is noir. Kurosawa wastes no opportunity to depict the antihero Nishi casting a heavy shadow on the wall. In a less overt way, Nishi's naive bride is the classic noir femme fatale, in the sense that it's her who is fooled by her corrupt father into revealing her husband's hiding place. Just as in classic American noir, the men may be tough guys but when it comes to sacrificing their vision of virginal womanhood, they crumble.

My favourite line in the film—and the one that probably sums up Kurosawa's theme in a single sentence: "You can't bring evil to justice by using the law." But if you're a brilliant film director, you can torture corrupt characters in cinematic hell for their crimes. The long opening sequence with the reporters observing the marriage of Iwabuchi's daughter to Nishi is positively delicious. As uncomfortable revelations are made by the public prosecutor, with the hungry press scooping every dirty detail, we get to watch the executives squirm. The entire stiff pantomime of the marriage ceremony (though with the Western wedding march) becomes both a satire of traditional ritual and a living purgatory for the guilty. Very much as it was for Hamlet's shattered family in the wake of a covered-up murder. Meanwhile the phalanx of reporters in The Bad Sleep Well becomes a kind of Greek chorus, providing the subtext to the unfolding event.

Judging by Nishi's fate, Kurosawa also seems to be saying, "You can't bring evil to justice by using lawlessness." Which leaves one wondering: is there any solution to the problem of evil? If that's the message, then the film comes to an ultimately pessimistic conclusion about human nature, just as many noir classics do.

An amazing achievement in film art.
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Who, disguised as a mild-mannered executive secretary…
patherto26 September 2004
In 'The Bad Sleep Well', Kurosawa tries to tear the lid off corporate corruption in Japan. Unfortunately, this is a premise that doesn't hold much power as a plot device. If you watch, you get to see Mifune wearing spectacles, and many of the other members of Kurosawa's band of actors as well. They don't have much to do but grit their teeth and scream a lot. I have a feeling that a lot of the plot (and there's lots and lots of plot to go around) gets lost in the minimalist subtitling and maximalist shouting. If you watch and you're not Japanese, you are likely to find a sleepy feeling coming on yourself. If so, are you 'the Bad?' No, you're just bored.
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Cosmoeticadotcom18 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Akira Kurosawa's 1960 black and white film, The Bad Sleep Well (Warui Yatsu Hodo Yoku Nemuru), is often compared to William Shakespeare's Hamlet, but it's an inapt comparison for, while Shakespeare's play has a higher sense of poetry, Kurosawa's film has far more relevance, realism, and complexity, even if, like Hamlet, it's a high class melodrama. The film was written by Kurosawa and four collaborators- Shinobu Hashimoto, Eijirô Hisaita, Ryuzo Kikushima, and Hideo Oguni. Because it has Shakespearean pedigree, and is not set in medieval Japan, this film has not gotten its proper due, in comparison with the classics that Kurosawa made earlier in his career, such as Rashomon, Ikiru, and Seven Samurai. But, it should, for, despite its melodramatic bent, and film noir roots- heightened by Masaru Sato's wonderful soundtrack, which alternates the darkness of certain moments with almost carnivalesque music, the film is superbly paced and well written, for within the film's opening sequences at a corporate wedding, fully Westernized with a Here Comes The Bride rendition, covered by the jackal-like press- reminiscent of the paparazzi in the prior year's Federico Fellini masterpiece La Dolce Vita, ready to pounce on any irregularity, because of a budding scandal, and the subsequent brilliant montage of newspaper headlines that puts those used by Hollywood in pre-World War Two gangster films to shame, the bulk of the film's narrative setup is displayed, and allowed to unravel for the next two hours, albeit almost never following the standard melodramatic arc of allowing the characters' dumbest possible actions dictate the plot. Because of this, the film's ending is both realistic, and one of the most chilling in film history. Perhaps only Dr. Strangelove's scenes of Armageddon are more chilling, however leavened by that film's final scenes' editing.

The cinematography, by longtime Godzilla series mainstay Yuzuru Aizawa, is superb. The scenes where Nishi and Wada drive Shirai mad are masterful example of pure black and white cinematography that rivals the best of the masterful Carl Theodor Dreyer. And while all the acting is first rate by the supporting cast, with the usual stellar work of Takashi Shimura as Moriyama, the perfectly restrained evil of Masayuki Mori as Iwabuchi, not to mention the wonderfully over the top looniness of Kô Nishimura as Shirai, the stellar cravenness of Kamatari Fujiwara as Wada, the semi-incestuous off kilter performance of Tatsuya Mihashi as Tatsuo, and the hammy enigmatic performance of Takeshi Katô as Itakura (the real Nishi), this film belongs to Toshirô Mifune as Nishi (the real Itakura), for, unlike his wildly over the top-however terrific, work in Rashomon and Seven Samurai, he truly gets to display the full range of his acting chops in his boiling rages- he declares, when trying to toss Shirai out the same window his father fell from, 'Even now they sleep soundly, with grins on their faces. I won't stand for it! I can never hate them enough!', his hiding of them as a corporate secretary, his acts of kindness that ultimately do him in, and in his love tenderly restrained scenes with Yoshiko, especially one where he tells of how his obsession with his father after his death is only matched by the hatred he felt for the man before his death. His internalized anguish allows Mifune to act with small gestures, not grand ones, and scenery chewing gives way to real emoting. Of the three roles I've seen him in, this is his best….easily. It takes a good half hour of the film's unfolding, though, before Nishi even emerges as the film's central character, and puppetmaster- although, ultimately, he is no match for Iwabuchi, who's been doing it longer and better. That's how much confidence Kurosawa has in his filmic and narrative talents, for imagine a Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts film going a half hour into the plot without a major scene for them. Mifune was that big a star in his day, but the film is always bigger.

The DVD, by The Criterion Collection, is shown in a 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, but lacks an English soundtrack, Considering the tremendous amount of white in the film, especially in the wedding scenes, the white subtitles are very difficult to read. There's also a trailer, and a thirty-three minute episode of the Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful To Create documentary series on the making of this film. The insert includes two essays- one by Chuck Stephens, of Film Comment, and one by director Michael Almereyda. The former is a lightweight take on the film and the latter a strained attempt at, yet again, linking the film to Hamlet.

Despite such senseless flagellations, The Bad Sleep Well is an excellent film, and every bit as worthy of being talked about as a masterpiece, as are Ikiru and Seven Samurai. It is, if only because of the weak end of Rashomon, even better than that universally acknowledged classic, and far better than almost all the American film noirs that I've seen, despite its melodrama. If Shakespeare teaches one thing it's that the difference between true drama and melodrama is often only the excellence of its presentation. On that score, this film is a great drama, even if, ultimately and in the real world, the bad really do sleep well.
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terrific film
mjoyceh18 April 2018
This film is about white collar corruption from a Japanese perspective. It is fascinating to watch. The only thing that stops me from giving this film a 10 rating is that some of the acting is terrible, and is a distraction from the rest of the film. (I do not include Mifune in this category. His performance is terrific.)
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