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Ikiru

Director: Akira Kurosawa


Kurosawa’s gentlest and most contemplative film, a world away from the tension and excitement of his samurai dramas, Ikiru means ‘to live’, and this warmly compassionate film raises the question of what it means to liveoand to die. Takashi Shimuraofor once with no Mifune as rival for the audience’s attentionoplays an elderly civil servant who learns he has terminal cancer. In his last few months he sets out to find something that will give meaning to his life. Kurosawa undercuts the potential sentimentality of his subject with touches of satirical humour and sharp social observation. His view of office cultureoof the typical ‘salaryman’ with his subservient, unquestioning attitudeois especially mordant. This quiet, unremarkable bureaucrat, it’s clear, stands as representative of a whole generation who abandoned their youthful idealism and settled for the easy option of inertia and undemanding routine. Even so, in its moving final moments the film fights through to a tough, hard-won optimism.
Japan, 1952. English subtitles. Black and white. 142 mins.

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