The Sixth Estate
Friday, January 16, 2004
QUOTE OF THE DAY : "Everyone is a genius. It's just that some people are too stupid to realize it."

SONG OF THE DAY : U.N.K.L.E. - Unreal (Remix)

LINK OF THE DAY : Mars Rover Homepage

Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on the event,
A thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward, I do not know
Why yet I live to say 'This thing's to do;'

If I could ever make a movie half as good as this, I would die a happy man.

I bought this film earlier in the week on a whim. I own several movies by Akira Kurosawa and have enjoyed his work a great deal. I remember reading that Ikiru(To Live) was counted among his best works. So I said, what the hell I'll buy it.

Best movie purchase I've ever made,
And one of the best films I've ever seen.

Now contrary to popular belief, Kurosawa didn't just make Samurai films. It just so happens that some of his best works are Samurai films, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Seven Samurai, Ran, Kagemusha, etc..
From a technological standpoint his films were unequaled, and revolutionary in their time. From the use of lighting, to the camera and editing techniques, he changed the way people made movies. He also invented the buddy cop genre of film, pairing a Rookie cop with an older experienced detective in 1947's Stray Dog. But back to Ikiru.

Not a sword, nor gun, or action sequence in the entire film. It's a very simple story. A career bureaucrat, Kenji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) worked 30 years straight without missing a day of work. He just joined the rat race at a young age and was sucked in. Now in his late 50's he's close to retirement, that is until he discovers that he has Terminal Stomach Cancer.

With only 3 months to live, Watanabe is at a loss. He hasn't lived a day in his life, and doesn't know where to start with the little time that he does have left.

It's an inspiring and incredibly sad story. Watanabe's wild nights living it up for the first time are so joyful. The view is happy for him and sad at the same time. Glad to finally see him living life, but sad in knowing that this is the first and last time he will experience these things.

As one would expect knowing that you're going to die, would obviously change you're outlook on life. Watanabe forms a friendship with a young woman co-worker, and is determined to see that she doesn't make the same mistakes he did, to end up like him... Alone, having essentially wasted his life up until this point.

He doesn't quit his job though. In his waning days, he does everything possible to get one thing done. A group of women are complaining about a horrible lot, full of stagnant water in their neighbourhood. It's a disgusting cesspool, and they want it turned into a public park. However, post-war Japan was plagued with bureaucracy, and nothing seemed to get done. Watanabe however is determined like never before to cut through the politics and get something done for once. Instead of making the cesspool some other department's problem, he makes it his own. Literally begging higher ups to make this happen. Taking his case all the way to the deputy mayor. His persistence is admirable, but sad because this is all he has left to live for. He does something meaningful with his life though, and gets the park built.

In the last poignant scene, Watanabe happily sits in the park that he made happen. Sitting on a swing, singing a song called Life is Brief... Earlier in the film the song brought him to tears when he heard it, but now it doesn't matter. He lived more in his last three months of his life than any time up until that point, he can now die a happy man.

It's one of those movie moments that will stick in your mind forever. Pure cinema. True cinema... What movie making... and story telling is all about. Seeing this movie will truly make you aware of Kurosawa's genius.

Watanabe is played by Takashi Shimura, one of the most gifted actors of the 20th century. If you've seen any other Kurosawa movies, you've seen him. He played the leader of the Seven Samurai in the film of the same name, a bold, wise individual, and in Ikiru he plays a meek, naive old man. A true titan of cinema, without the larger than life persona. Perhaps it was his subtlety that made him so good.

I recommend this movie. You can take everything else I say as bullshit, but do yourself a favour and see this movie. It will change the way you look at things.

Fun Fact of the Day: It's warmer on Mars today, than it is here in Toronto, and most of the Eastern US and Canada! Mars is between -2 and -13 degrees, ,and well if you've been outside today you know it's like -15 degrees !



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