An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.
An executive mortgages all he owns to stage a coup and gain control of the National Shoe Company, with the intent of keeping the company out of the hands of incompetent and greedy executives. He needs the same money, though, to pay the ransom that will possibly save a child's life. His resolution of that dilemma -- the certain loss of the company vs. the probable loss of the child -- makes for one distinct drama, and an ensuing elaborate police procedure makes for a second.Written by
After the film was released, kidnappings were on the rise in Japan. Akira Kurosawa himself had received threats for the kidnapping of his own daughter, Kazuko Kurosawa. She quoted him as once saying to her "With High and Low, I wanted to inspire tougher sentences on kidnappers. Instead, I was criticized for their increase." See more »
When the police is reviewing the footage from the train (where the kidnappers retrieve the briefcase), the camera rotates 180 degrees backwards and, despite it having been recorded from the cabin, the view is never blocked. See more »
About the best police procedural you're ever likely to see
Toshiro Mifune is a businessman in a Japan that is on the brink of the Economic Miracle of the Sixties. He is an honest man who loves his job as a shoe factory exec and is in a battle for corporate control against a pack of hyenas. He has mortgaged and borrowed and scraped to raise the money for a surprise coup when his son is kidnapped. But there is a major plot twist: it is not HIS son that was taken but his son's playmate, the chauffeur's kid and the ransom demanded is astronomical. If he pays he will lose everything he has worked so hard for, but can he just sacrifice the chauffeur's child because it is not his? From here on High and Low (perhaps better translated as Heaven and Hell) is a police procedural based on an Ed McBain 87th precinct story.
Watching this film I had a rare, almost unique, experience. I saw it on a fairly screen tv, letterboxed, in a darkened room. All the preceding conditions helped contribute to put me into an objective/subjective middle ground where I had the feeling of looking through a special visor that allowed me to see the world by means of an almost perfect film as if through the eyes of a cinematic genius who is in total command of his artistic means and in total command of his subject matter. I think the key to this experience is that while High and Low is interesting as human drama, it is yet peculiarly uninvolving emotionally but very involving cinematically. These distances are important in Kurosawa's films (he is high on my list of top ten directors but after Welles). In IKIRU you probably could not be more deeply involved emotionally, while in RAN there is nothing but relentless distance.
I think a good companion film to watch with this would be Kurosawa's earlier, looser, but much more individually tense, police film STRAY DOG (this time Mifune is the cop)
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