Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Japan, 1970. Toho Company, Yonki-no-Kai Productions. Screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto, based on the novel Kisetsu No Nai Machi by Shugoro Yamamoto. Cinematography by Yasumichi Fukuzawa,Takao Saito. Produced by Akira Kurosawa, Yoichi Matsue. Music by Toru Takemitsu. Production Design by Shinobu Muraki, Yoshiro Muraki. Costume Design by Miyuki Suzuki. Film Editing by Reiko Kaneko.
Akira Kurosawa makes his first colour film with this dark but never depressing drama about life in the slums of Tokyo. It follows a disparate group of people living in dire straits in the outskirts of the city under varied circumstances: there’s a man and his little boy who live in a derelict car and constantly talk of the house of their dreams that they plan to build, a girl who lives with her uncle who is sexually abusing her, two men who exasperate their wives by spending their days completely drunk, and, most delightfully, a simple young man who believes himself a train conductor and acts out his imaginary employment every day amid piles of rubbish. Kurosawa’s switch to colour format couldn’t have had a better debut, the film a constant palette of beautiful colours, collage images that look like a watercolour painting. The beauty of this world, however, doesn’t take away from the tragedy of the situation, instead emphasizing the characters’ ability to find something hopeful in even the worst moments of their lives. Kurosawa was really speaking from the heart with this one; its failure with Japanese critics and audiences led to him attempt suicide the following year. He spent the rest of the decade struggling to make films in Japan, leading to his Oscar winning production of Dersu Uzala in the USSR before Kagemusha restored his status in his own country.
The Criterion Collection: #465
Academy Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film