Ikiru

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(1952, directed by Akira Kurosawa)

- inducted 2019 –

“Even if Ikiru is one of the most beautiful, humanist and transcendent pieces of work ever created (directed by one of cinema’s great humanists), its outlook on life isn’t necessarily as hopeful as it appears at first glance. Sure, the movie’s inedible image is the bureaucrat Kanji Watanabe (character actor Takashi Shimura making his best work here) sitting on a swing, as he knows his own demise is approaching. But one forgets that this is a film that opens with an X-ray image of a cancer-riddled stomach, the stomach of the man that we soon see working at the city hall, filing away complaints, denying funds and moving on with his life. He’s already dead.

“Of course, the film shows us the moment in Watanabe’s life when he decides to make a difference, to make amends with his past as the ‘living dead’ and, instead, to really make the effort ‘to live’ (which is the translation of the title, Ikiru). But just when we’re about to see how he’s trying to create something good for the community, the film jumps forward… to his funeral. The mourners discuss his life, completely unaware of the changes he made in the shadows of government bureaucracy. So, he’s not only dead, he’s deader than death itself, as he won’t be remembered by anyone. Another anonymous death, another body turning to dust in the ground.

“But the way Kurosawa approaches the dead man fills us with hope all the same. Maybe it’s the feeling deep inside all of us that we’ll be forgotten, or that we’re not living the lives we should. It’s nice to think that one last act might redeem us, but is that really the truth? Kurosawa has the perfect answer for that: the kids laughing and playing in the park Watanabe made possible. Their energy escaping into the air, filling the screen – it’s the breath of life itself.

“If you seek Watanabe’s monument, look around you.” ~ Jaime Grijalba

Principal cast: Takashi Shimura, Shin’ichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka, Minoru Chiaki, Miki Odagiri, Bokuzen Hidari, Minosuke Yamada, Kamatari Dujiwara, Makoto Mobori, Nobuo Kaneko, Nubuo Nakamura
Written by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni
Produced by Sojiro Motoki
Cinematography by Asakazu Nakai, assisted by Takao Saito
Production design by Takashi Matsuyama, assisted by Yoshiro Muraki
Film editing by Koichi Iwashita
Original music by Fumio Hayasaka
Hair stylist: Sadako Okada
Sound by Funio Yanoguchi (sound recordist), Ichiro Minawa (sound effects editor)

JAPAN
Duration: 143 minutes
Languages: Japanese
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono
Cinematographic process: Spherical
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Printed film format: 35mm

Produced by Toho Company
Released in USA by Brandon Films
Premiered in Tokyo, Japan on October 9, 1952
USA release date: March 25, 1956

Awards and honors:
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies”
- Berlin Film Festival, 1954 – Special Prize of the Senate of Berlin (won)
- Berlin Film Festival, 1954 – Golden Bear (nominated)
- BAFTA Film Awards, 1959 – Best Foreign Actor: Takashi Shimura (nominated)

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