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. Kurosawa himself had received threats for the kidnapping of his own daughter, Kazuko. 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 »
While I've seen HIGH AND LOW referred to as a "film noir," a "detective drama," a "riveting game of cat-and-mouse," and so on into infinity, I think those terms tend to underestimate some very great films (such as this and Kubrick's THE KILLING) and attempts to place them within boundaries over which the expanse of a few powerful films such as these spill.
Indeed HIGH AND LOW is a story involving some familiar techniques from film noir; the detective story; and the hunter-and-hunted storyline, but it surpasses so many films that might be included in a list of fine films noires. It, in true Kurosawa style (one which Stanley Kubrick matched blow-for-blow, seeming to complement one another in their stunning gifts to the cinema), stands as a fable showing the differences and tensions which the coexistance of different classes creates.
Gondo, the rich on high, receives torment from those who live below him, being literally perched upon a hill, overlooking the city in a feudalistic way, in which the king's palace gazes down upon the serfs below. As the kidnapper says, "it's hot as hell down here. But you wouldn't know that, you have air conditioning." Thus we see the parallels pile upon each other: it is about class warfare but also shows the differences between heaven and hell; and Gondo makes both a descent and ascent simultaneously.
The plot is simple, but the truth is complicated, and I won't go into it here, but take my word as it stands: this is an amazing piece of film. See it now or regret it! Every Kurosawa film is sublime.
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