Wednesday, December 25, 2019


I just watched one of my favorite movies by the great Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa is famous for his samurai movies but he probably has just as many social dramas as he has samurai movies. In 1952 he made Ikiru (To Live).

It starred Takashi Shimura, who was not as famous as Kurosawa's favorite actor, Toshiro Mifune, but he appeared in 21 of Akira Kurosawa's 30 films (more than any other actor), including as a lead actor in Drunken Angel (1948), Rashomon (1950), Ikiru (1952) and Seven Samurai (1954).
In the movie we find Shimura, playing Kanji Watanabe, a bureaucrat who literally rubber stamps papers all day long, while really accomplishing nothing.
When Watanabe discovers that he has terminal stomach cancer, and at the same time hears his son and daughter-in-law talking about how they are going to control their inheritance from him, Watanabe decides he has To Live with the time he has remaining.
Watanabe decides to build a park in a lot that has a cesspool and is a danger to the families living in the area. Watanabe had earlier passed the problem on to another department but now tackles the project with enthusiasm. He literally takes on City Hall and finally gets the project finished.
Watanabe is observed by a policemen on a swing in the park happily singing a song. He is later found dead in his park.

Ikiru is a searing indictment of the bureaucracy of City Hall, where the way to get ahead is to do nothing except not make waves. But Ikiru is also an inspiring film telling us we need to live our lives, not merely pass through it.
A great movie by one of our best directors.