You have two more chances to catch the best movie you might see on the big screen all year: Akira Kurosawa's 1952 drama Ikiru, playing noon Sunday and 6:50 p.m. Monday as the conclusion to The Belcourt's summer-long Kurosawa centenary celebration. Sarah Childress, Vanderbilt lecturer in English and a driving force behind Sarratt's excellent "International Lens" series, will introduce the Monday-night showing.
From this week's Scene:
The difference between seeing Akira Kurosawa’s film early and later in life is the difference between looking at a window and a mirror. It’s the kind of benedictory statement one would expect at the end of a director's career, but Kurosawa’s 1952 drama preceded his massive international success Seven Samurai and another 45-plus years of filmmaking.
After 30 years of futile paper-pushing, an aging bureaucrat learns he has a short time to live. He seeks escape in drinking and gambling, but they don't help. He tries reconciliation with his grown son, but it doesn't work. Eventually, he decides that before he dies he will accomplish one worthwhile task. It is the beauty of Kurosawa's film, and the measure of his clear-eyed compassion, that this act is shown in flashbacks, after the ailing Mr. Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) has been laid to rest, while the mourners at his memorial service grapple with his selfless example.
In Kurosawa's Rashomon, made two years earlier, the X variable of human nature lies within the movie’s conflicting views of the same event. Here, the differing viewpoints suggest that a man's life is measured twice: by himself, in the present, during whatever time he has on Earth; and by others, in the future, when his deeds are the only legacy he leaves. In Shimura’s staggering performance — if you saw Seven Samurai or Stray Dog a few weeks ago at The Belcourt, you may not believe you’re seeing the same actor — his salaryman’s stoop takes on a heroic cast, like Don Quixote’s ratty armor.
The movie makes an appropriate conclusion to The Belcourt’s summer-long Kurosawa centenary celebration. In this marvelous film, with its indelible closing image of earthly satisfaction, the director penned an epitaph any man would be proud to claim.