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PostPosted: Thu Aug 04, 2011 12:47 am 
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Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 10:32 am
Location: New York, NY
Finally got around to seeing "I Live In Fear." I knew Kurosawa could go dark when allowed to do existential dramas ("The Idiot," "Dursu Uzala," etc.) but even I wasn't ready for both the bleakness of this story and the tour-de-force performance by Toshirô Mifune. Shoot, I didn't even know it was Mifune as the old man until an hour into the movie. I completely bought both (a) the conviction that Kiichi Nakajama truly believes he's trying to save those he loves from nuclear annihilation by moving them all to Brazil (Mifune's physical body movements are like an acting clinic of how to do energetic, barely-repressed, old-man mannerisms), and (b) the certainty of his family members (flawed personalities and all) that they're doing the right thing by clipping Kiichi's wings. Kurosawa is so focused on trying to explore the ramifications of everybody's actions/reactions on everybody else (especially on Takashi Shimura's audience-surrogate mediator) that he forgets to make "ILIF" an enjoyable film. This is really depressing stuff (and I saw "MST3K: Red Zone Cuba" right after it, so my cinematic nihilism quota for the week is filled). I can admire this for being AK's follow-up project after his "Seven Samurai" success (same way AK used the clout from "Rashomon" to make "The Idiot") and for having the balls to tackle the subject matter it does. Like "The Idiot" though this is a good Kurosawa movie I don't care to rewatch again any time soon (or ever).


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2011 9:43 am 
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Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:02 pm
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One Wonderful Sunday – There was so much about this that worked, but even more that didn’t. I loved the shots of post-war Tokyo (reminded me very much of Mizoguchi’s films with his protagonists playing in the rubble). I thought the two leads were fantastic; though, she stole the show. There were scenes of genuine tenderness that are very hard to capture. Many of the street scenes seems straight out of a De Sica film, and they were joyous! Still, there were times that this film really made me cringe.

The male lead was such a hopeless slouch that I couldn’t see her justification of loving him and sticking by him. That’s fine that his character was drowning in cynicism, and I assume it was their social class and post-war circumstances that compelled her to stay with him, but Kurosawa avoids this. He also avoids the other reason they might be together: sex. I realize that Japan at this time was very conservative, and she might have felt compelled to stay with this guy after ‘giving it up’ to him (maybe her virginity?), but I wish Kurosawa had been a little more clever with showing the circumstances involving their plight.

The scene when she leaves and returns crying sure was long, and it seemed that Kurosawa lacked the directorial experience to really nail this sort of quiet and somber scene. In the end, he waddled around the room, and none of it seemed reflective. In fact, the scene was somewhat boring and didn’t build up the tension upon her return. There was no growth and the male protagonist seemed more about self-pity than thinking of her. Even if we assume the best, it is clear upon her return, he lost any potential growth that might have resulted in losing her. He placated her and mocked her tears. Not in a tender fashion, “I’m a jerk…”, but in “you’re an idiot”.

The final sequence at the arena was hard to watch and really lacked the emotional punch needed to conclude something like this. Kurosawa was gutsy allowing her to break the 4th wall, but I can’t help but feel that this either wasn’t executed to his vision, or was a desperate ploy to elicit pathos when he knew the end was lacking a punch.

This was enjoyable, but I think it will sit on my shelf for many years to come before a revisit. Make no mistake, I wanted this to be the knockout of the set/this period, and there were many times in the first hour where I thought this was going to be it, but it ultimately couldn't pull it off.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2011 12:47 pm 
Bringing Out El Duende
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Joined: Mon Dec 06, 2004 6:53 pm
Location: New York City
I saw I Live In Fear the other day but didn't finish it. I plan to, though. The problem with the film is that we don't get to identify with the very real fear of a nuclear disaster that plagues the Mifune character. If Kurosawa had let us into Mifune's inner life in a much more palpable way - similar to, but not obiously like Bergman's main character in Wild Strawberries - he'd keep our interest in the almost frantic behavior of the character. In other words, Kurosawa doesn't make Mifune's panic look exceptional or particularly inspired but desperate and almost lunatic, just as his family observes.

On the other hand, the real focus of the film is the inner life, or at least, the ruminations of Domestic Court Counselor Dr. Harada, played by Takashi Shimura, who in film after film and more than any of Kurosawa's troupe of actors, seems to embody the real concern or voice of the director.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2011 1:05 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
aox wrote:
One Wonderful Sunday – I loved the shots of post-war Tokyo (reminded me very much of Mizoguchi’s films with his protagonists playing in the rubble).

Naruse has some remarkable scenes of post-war rubble -- Repast for instance. But most surprisingly in the obscure The Heir of Urashima Taro. The most remarkable genuine post-war devastation is found in Shimizu's Chidlren of the Beehive -- where one sequence takes place in the rubble of Hiroshima (something that was actually forbidden by US films censors at the time).

Quote:
I thought the two leads were fantastic; though, she stole the show.

Chieko Nakakita was not destined to be a leading lady, but she did become Naruse's single most important supporting star, playing a wide array of wonderful parts.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:13 pm 
Bringing Out El Duende
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Joined: Mon Dec 06, 2004 6:53 pm
Location: New York City
I'm saddend to hear that (according to Japanese film scholar Donald Richie) there are no existing prints of the original 265-minute version of The Idiot. When Shochiku studio was still unsatisfied with what we now have in a 166 minute re-edited version Kurosawa was supposed to have suggested that they cut the film lengthwise. I have to admit, although I've only watched about ten minutes of the film thus far, that some the editing seems abrupt. Taeko, for example, is introduced rather bluntly with a mugshot of her on the town square. In Dostoevsky's novel and in Vladimir Bortko's excellent Russian television mini-series based on the novel, Anastassya's (Taeko's Russian counterpart) appearance is given far more mystique. Whether or not Kurosawa originally handled her initial appearance with more aplomb I suppose we'll never know. But, considering the great seductive spell she supposedly casts over men, her initial appearance in Kurosawa's version is revealed in such a matter-of-fact fashion that it must have been a deliberate move on his part or the subsequent editing by some studio hack.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 5:46 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK
Taeko does get a much more lavish introduction later on. I don't know whether seeing her photograph earlier on is a problem or not - it helps our main character to become obsessed with her image more than the person herself, to such an extent I could understand how he could almost be paralysed when suddenly in the presence of the actual lady herself in the later scene.

Wait until you get to the big setpiece scene at the party, where a character walking across the room to the bar for a drink, something which looks like it was originally filmed in one fluidly moving shot, gets no less than three wipes across the screen to speed things up! The editing can feel extremely choppy, especially in the early stages of the film and in establishing shots of scenes, but I think it is to the credit of the film, and the actors, that much of the film still manages to capture that intimate feeling of important clashes between characters played out in quite an in-depth manner without the timing of such scenes feeling too butchered.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:01 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Yes -- I'd say the performances (the four leads plus Chieko Higashiyama, especially) and the winter cinematography in Idiot are so remarkable that they compensate for the disastrous re-editing.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 7:43 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:35 pm
Location: NJ
Unfortunately, the slipcase to my copy of Postwar Kurosawa got water damaged. - can anyone upload a hi-res image of it and I can print it out on some heavy card stock. I'd be much obliged!!


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 7:49 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT
Better yet, email Jon Mulvaney and ask for a replacement.


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