Following World War II, a retired professor approaching his autumn years finds his quality of life drastically reduced in war-torn Tokyo. Denying despair, he pursues writing and celebrates his birthday with his adoring students.
An anthology of overlapping vignettes exploring the lives of a variety of characters who happen to live in a suburbial shantytown atop a rubbish dump: The boy Roku-chan lives in a fantasy world in which he is a tram conductor. In his fantasy world, he is both the tram and the tram driver and follows a set route and schedule through the dump, reciting the refrain "Dodeska-den", "clickety-clack", mimicking the sound of his vehicle. Ryotaro, a hairbrush maker by trade, is saddled with supporting many children whom his unfaithful wife Misao[c] has conceived in different adulterous affairs, but is wholeheartedly devoted to them. A pair of drunken day laborers (Masuda and Kawaguchi) who engage in wife-swapping, only to return to their own wives the next day as though nothing has happened. A stoic, bleak man named Hei is frequented by Ocho who appears to be his ex-wife, and he watches emotionless as she takes care of his domestic chores. Shima, the man with the tic, is always defending his ...Written by
This is a movie about the small scale. What could be more fitting for contemporary Japan?
It's too easy to give Kurosawa his laurels on the strength of the Toshiro Mifune films, his great panoramas of mist and rain, and Fuji, always, shrouded, revealed. Dodesukaden (Dodeska-Den in the US release from Janus) brings you right up into the characters, right into their faces, their homes, their hovels, their dreams. It's billed as Kurosawa's first color film. The composition is phenomenal, really. Each shot, no matter how it moves or how it doesn't, is as wonderfully framed as a painting, as balanced as a beautiful face. The color saturation is complete, and yet they seem to float above the screen rather than clobber you or intrude.
I am astounded by this film. I've never thought of Kurosawa as someone who would know how to handle squalor and the rude life of the bottom of the underclass. I was wrong. There isn't a false step in this picture, from the use of color to the editing to the choice of music and the times it's used. It's as moving a portrait of a community as I'll ever see. Dodesukaden belongs at the top of the canon of Kurosawaa's work, with Ran and The Hidden Fortress next to it.
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