Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ikiru


"Life is brief, fall in love, maidens...Before the crimson bloom fades from your lips...Before the tides of passion cools within you...For those of you who know no tomorrow...Life is brief, fall in love, maidens...Before our raven tresses begin to fade...Before the flames in your hearts flicker and die...For those to whom today will never return..."

Wow. I just watched a relatively little-known film by master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa called Ikiru (To Live); bleak, quiet and absolutely beautiful. The DVD which I rented from Netflix has the sound of a beating heart looping on the menu page, which in retrospect says everything. I don't know about you, but I am all into movies that break your heart without trying to. This is definitely one of them; starring Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura, best known as the leader of the Seven Samurai (I knew I recognized him from the start...) Here he plays Kanji Watanabe, a veteran bureaucrat of city hall in a nameless city of post-war Japan who discovers he has less than a year to live. He then embarks on a journey to make sense of his life, ultimately deciding to make up for lost time by dedicating himself to what would otherwise be a lost cause.

Kurosawa does not overdo any moment; focusing on the stark emotions of Watanabe as he wanders aimlessly through the city, dealing with his family at home or coming to grips with his legacy at work. I won't tell you too much because obviously I want you to watch it, but I will say that while the first half of the film follows our hero through his grieving process, the second half is a devastating retrospect that had me in tears. What he does with his time is not only a study in the vanity of men and determination in those who want to make a difference, but a lesson in what it truly is to be a hero... and though mankind has a long way to go to redefine itself, that it is never too late to make a difference. Let me know what you think.

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