Dodes'ka-Den (1970)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Urban Drama  |   Run Time - 140 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |  
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Even if the only available version of Akira Kurosawa's underrated drama of life in a city slum is a truncated one, the film's episodic structure doesn't noticeably suffer from severe editing the way a tightly woven narrative would. If nothing else, Dodes'ka-Den would be important as the master's first film in color; for Kurosawa, the decision wasn't taken casually. To reflect the moods of his cast of struggling characters, he alters the colors of the sky which shelters them. The obvious link to a previous Kurosawa film is his 1957 version of Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths, if only for its portrayal of people at the lowest rung of society. But by the late '60s, Kurosawa was clearly in a more hopeful mood, infusing many of this film's potentially downbeat situations with elements of optimism. It's a bitter irony that negative public reaction to such a film resulted in Kurosawa's nearly ending his life. Had his career ended with this film, it would have concluded on a work of middle rank; even so, that places Dodes'ka-Den high above the entire output of most other filmmakers.