Ikiru

from my 1st Ebert’s Great Movies Marathon, part 2 of 13

Data
Title: Ikiru
Year: 1952 (Japan); 1956 (US)
Length: 143 minutes
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto & Hideo Oguni
Starring: Takashi Shimura
With: Shin’ichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka, Minoru Chiaki, Miki Odagiri, Bokuzen Hidari, Minosuke Yamada, Kamatari Fujiwara, Makoto Kobori, Nobuo Kaneko, Nobuo Nakamura, Atsushi Watanabe, Isao Kimura, Masao Shimizu, Yûnosuke Itô
Music: Fumio Hayasaka (and non-original music)
Cinematography: Asakazu Nakai
Editing: Kôichi Iwashita
I saw it: on video a couple times, most recently a few days ago (rented from Netflix)
Synopsis: a man wants to learn to live when he finds out he’s dying

My reaction
Concept:3/4 (Good) It’s a cliche, but every cliche needs at least one great movie for the others to copy.
Story:3/4 (Good)
Characters:4/4 (Great)
Dialog:2/4 (Indifferent) There’s probably something lost in translation.
Pacing:1/4 (Bad) Not exactly boring, but it’s very long and feels longer.
Cinematography:3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design:2/4 (Indifferent) I’m taking some points off for poor video and sound quality. I would never guess from watching it that it was shot as late as the 50s.
Acting:3/4 (Good) Over-the-top, but very effective.
Music:4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4 (Indifferent)). Well made and depressing.
Objective Rating (Average):2.7/4 (Good)

And, what’s Ebert got to say?
– “…one of the greatest closing shots in the cinema.” Um, no.
– “[Kurosawa] makes us not witnesses to Watanabe’s decision, but evengelists for it. I think this is one of the few movies that might actually be able to inspire someone to lead his or her life a little differently.” Sure, maybe if you’re a useless bureaucrat who can’t be arsed to clean up a neighborhood sewage dump. On the other hand, if you’re someone who’s bothering to watch a Japanese art film, you’ve probably got enough of a brain to realize that being habitually miserable is a bad decision.
– “I saw Ikiru first in 1960 or 1961… I sat enveloped in the story of Watanabe for two and a half hours… Over the years I have seen Ikiru every five years or so, and each time it has moved me and made me think.” And here we see why Ikiru, of all movies, is the second entry to Ebert’s Great Movies. Ebert’s making a statement of purpose by choosing it second – that he’s not pretending to be objective. His essay includes a laundry list of classics made by Kurosawa; this is not one of them. It’s great, yes, but it is clearly not meant to be seen as one of a handful of Best Movies Ever; if that were the point, one of those other, much better movies would have been chosen first. Instead we get… a movie he likes, that’s important to him, personally, and that he feels like writing an essay about.

[update of a previous post – original is here]

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