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Ikiru

(To Live)
Japan 1952. Dir: Akira Kurosawa. 143 min. 35mm

35mm PRINT! Many Akira Kurosawa admirers cite this deeply-affecting piece of humanist cinema as one of the great director’s pinnacle achievements; it was Kurosawa’s own favourite. A low-key gendai-geki (film of contemporary life) dating from the same period that produced the celebrated historical dramas Rashomon and Seven Samurai, Ikiru features Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura as Watanabe, a hidebound minor government official. Discovering that he has but months to live, Watanabe realizes that he has accomplished nothing of significance in his time on earth, and so sets out to do something that will give his life a meaning. Kurosawa’s portrait of postwar Japanese life is both poignant and pointed. The “swing in the snow” scene is sublime. “An intensely moving film, elegiac and sometimes quirkishly funny in the manner of Kurosawa’s elective model, John Ford. Shimura is superb in the central role” (Tom Milne, Time Out).

 

REVIEWS

"Kurosawa's greatest film ... It avoids all the maudlin cliches and blind alleys of examining the 'meaning of life,' giving us instead a rare portrait of a man experiencing a genuine insight into what his wasted years have been leading to."

Chicago Reader | full review

"An established masterpiece ... The narrative is carefully paced, the central performance magnificent, the final effect overwhelming."

The Guardian | full review