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(Review originally written at 2 February 2010)

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Like you can expect from basically every Kurosawa picture, this movie is something unique and beautiful. It's a very well crafted movie, that this time for most part gets uplifted by its story.

It has a very simple and also very effective concept about a middle-aged bureaucrat, who suddenly finds out he only has a couple of more months to live. He then realizes he has never achieved anything or enjoyed live and only committed himself mostly only to his work. Even though it of course has a sad premise, the movie itself is really about life and how you should treasure and enjoy it and don't only commit yourself to one thing your whole life without any change, fore before you know you're life will be over and you'll not be able to look back at a fully lived one.

It's a character movie that also gets very well constructed story-wise. Seems that Kurosawa had been inspired by "Citizen Kane", since it pretty much uses the same way of storytelling. The movie is basically one of two parts. In the first we get to know the main character and see how he tries to cope with his nearing end and tries to enjoy life and achieve something significant as well. The second halve mostly consist out of flashbacks after the death of the main character and shows how he achieved to do something significant and also affected a lot of people around him, mostly his colleagues, who realize that they way they are conducting their jobs is not in the best interest of everyone. It's also a movie that is a comment against the bureaucracy it seems.

It's not a movie though that tries hard to be sentimental or preachy with any of its messages. It's a real subtly done movie, that therefore also tends to become a real effective one. It's also more an ode to life than a sad movie about a dying man really.

Granted that the movie is a bit too long, making some of its sequences a bit overlong at times but this is something you more or less always have to take for granted in an old fashioned Japanese production. It's also hardly a complained for this movie but I guess it will still turn some people off.

Takashi Shimura is really great as the dying man, who is mostly expressing himself with his face, rather than words. You see his pain, grief and desperateness in his eyes. Shimura also was only in his 40's at the time but they did a great job with making him look much older but credit for this of course also has to go to Takashi Shimura himself for this. Shimura is an actor who used to work quite a lot with and is also in some of his best known movies like "Shichinin no samurai", "Rashômon", "Yojimbo" and "Kakushi-toride no san-akunin". Yet he never had been that well known or recognized as for instance Toshirô Mifune. Perhaps because he was mostly normally playing the secondary characters but in this movie Kurosawa really allows him to shine and gives him a stage for perhaps his greatest performance. It at least is his most memorable one.

A really fine made and told movie!

9/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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