Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952)

What's it about? A middle-aged Tokyo bureaucrat learns he has stomach cancer and will die within a year. Upon realising his life has been meaningless so far, he wallows in self-pity before resolving to do something significant with the time he has left.

Is it any good? A resounding yes. More renowned for
his samurai films, it may come as a surprise to some to find that Kurosawa’s masterpiece and most affecting film is in fact a low-key, contemporary drama about a man who knows he is going to die. Using a non-linear time line and differing perspectives, Kurosawa plays with conventional structure to inject irony, emotion and poignancy into this relatively simple story. In the lead role, long-time Kurosawa collaborator Takashi Shimura turns in an outstanding performance, quietly conveying the innermost feelings of a dying man through his eyes and expression, drawing the audience into this sad man’s world and lets us feel his despair at a life wasted. Kurosawa may provide the brains of the film, but Shimura provides the heart. And if that's not enough, it's also a scathing attack on the hypocritical mind-set of Japanese bureaucracy, as epitomised in the final scenes by a man gradually disappearing behind a mound of paperwork. Just brilliant.

A man sings on a swing in the snow.
More moving than it sounds.
I don't trust you. What do others think? 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and one the the few films which actually deserves to be called a masterpiece. Give a wide birth to anyone who says they don't rate this - they're probably mental.

Anything else I should know? The title means 'To Live', a translation which can be taken several ways in the context of the film. It's also interesting to view it as an opposite companion piece to
It's a Wonderful Life, in which a man finds his life has not been meaningless.

What does the Fonz think? Remember: work to live, don’t live to work.

Buy it on Amazon

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