August 30, 2011

Akira Kurosawa's High and Low (1963)


Like most film lovers, I have an ever-growing list of movies that I'm hoping to see at some point in the future. When I have the time to catch up with a few of them, there's an internal struggle of the type of film to check out. Should I pick a recent movie that I missed in the theater? Would a renowned classic be a better choice? My typical approach is to try and balance the two categories as much as possible. One director that I need to revisit more often is Akira Kurosawa, who has a large group of highly regarded pictures. I've seen many of his signature works, but there are still plenty that I've missed.

One example is High and Low, a crime film from 1963 that goes well beyond the genre framework. It actually combines the family melodrama, police procedural, and chase genres into a riveting epic story. Adapting the novel King's Ransom by Ed McBain, Kurosawa uses a deliberate approach that takes a little while to grab you. Once it gets moving, however, the pace rarely lets up until the emotionally charged finale. By the time we explore the slums and meet the culprits, it's not so clear where the real evil is in this world. It's one of Kurosawa's best movies and deserves a place alongside Rashomon, The Seven Samurai, and many others. For more information, check out my review in PopMatters of this intriguing film that still feels modern nearly 50 years after its original release.

7 comments:

  1. I am going to head over right away and have a read. I have been meaning to see this film for a very very long time!!

    :-)

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  2. Scott, it's definitely worth seeing. The first act is a bit slow, but it really pays off once the action gets moving.

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  3. Yeah, know that exact feeling of not knowing what to watch. Sometimes takes 15 minutes just to pick out a movie!

    Haven't seen enough Kurosawa yet. From the top of my head I only saw Ran and Seven Samurai, so still got a lot of catching up to do.

    On Monday you suggested to watch Point Blank and I did. Really an excellent revenge movie which was pretty good (gave it an 8/10) and I will try to review it as soon as I can on my blog. Thanks for the tip!

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  4. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed Point Blank. It has some great sequences, and Marvin is excellent. I'll keep an eye out for the review.

    I also still have a lot more Kurosawa to see. I'm not ready to take on a marathon, but I may have to do so at some point.

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  5. I liked High and Low quite a bit, although I preferred the "high" first part with the tension and moral question over the "low" part that was just following the police checking out clues.

    Not sure what other Kurosawa you may not have seen, but I highly recommend Seven Samurai, Ikuru, Throne of Blood and Yojimbo, in that order. Rashomon and Hidden Fortress are also good. I recently reviewed Seven Samurai. I consider it the greatest non-English language movie ever made.

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  6. Chip, I've seen most of the Kurosawa films you mentioned, with Yojimbo being the lone exception. I haven't seen too many beyond that, though, except Ran, Dreams, and possibly something else that I'm forgetting. You're definitely right that Seven Samurai is a classic. Thanks!

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  7. Dan, if you've seen A Fistful of Dollars you've sort of seen Yojimbo. It was a remake of the Kurosawa film. I haven't seen Dreams.

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