Tuesday, December 15, 2009

High and Low (1963)

Tengoku to jigoku aka Heaven and Hell aka The Ransom
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Japan 1963
Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyôko KagawaTatsuya Mihashi and Tsutomu Yamakazi, among others
142 min

I've seen the whole movie now, and the rest of my review is found here.]

I'm furious!

I finally got by my depressed-by-failing-at-a-silly-fraud-job state and decided to catch up on my Akira Kurosawa watching. I haven't seen a film of his for years, so I thought it'd be time. And boy, did I choose just the right picture! High and Low, and 1963 crime movie with cool Japanese in suits and combed back hair, and my favorite Jap Toshirô Mifune. What can possibly go wrong?

Well, and hour and a half into the movie I am hyped as hell, thinking this might just be the coolest and most suspenseful Japanese movie I've ever seen - and then the subtitles go unsynchronized. And not with just a few seconds (which is irritating, but it can work if you're desperate) - the subtitles are suddenly 2,5 minutes late! I just can't get it to work. Fuck. Why can't I understand Japanese?

I just have to wait to see the remaining hour until I can get another copy of it. I did however decide to give you my thoughts of the film thus far, at least. But I'm mad as hell!

The main character is an executive in National Shoe Company and goes by the name of Gondo (as often in Kurosawa's films played by Toshirô Mifune). He is just about to go through with a plan to gain control of the whole company by mortgaging everything he owns to by stock, when something unexpected happens: a kidnapper wants to play.
What at first seems as lucky, when the kidnapper mistakingly picks the wrong boy to kidnap, turns out as more heavy than expected. Gondo must choose between saving the boy (and go bankrupt) or going through with his business deal (and not paying the ransom, which is the same as killing the boy).

Even though the kidnapper (of course) wanted no involvement by the police, Gondo dares to call them anyway (hey, it's not HIS son) - and in waltzes anti-hero Chief Detective Tokura (oh, so handsome Totsuya Nakadai) and his team. I can't recall when I last saw such a lovable bunch of police men. Detective Tokura, while he is professional and experienced, always tries to light of the tension with bad jokes (people being extorted not being the best audience, I think) that only he and his team laughs sheepishly at.

The police men tap the phones and try their best to figure out where to look for the kidnapper. An especially exciting scene is on a train, where Gondo is supposed to hand over the ransom in exchange for the boy. The kidnapper is however very clever (despite the fact that he initially kidnapped the wrong boy), and the police work gets quite tricky.

... and that's it. When the subtitles messed up I was in the middle of a funny scene where the police men are having a meeting to sum up how far they have gotten in their investigations. As I said earlier - I can't remember if I ever have seen such a cute police force. The officers stand up two at a time, summing up their investigation reports as if they were school kids giving a lecture about mammals or something, and then end their reports with an embarrassed smile and a timid little laugh. Just cute.

So... I can't wait to see the rest. I just wonder how and when. Toshirô Mifune is probably the coolest man who ever lived (at least in Japan), with his groucho awe-inspiring manner and growly whiskey voice that would scare a wild grizzly bear. And Tatsuya Nakadai melted my heart. Kurosawa sure knew how to pick them!

Let's end this tease post with a couple of cool pictures I found. Theme: "Quick, poison your lungs before you die!"

A young and dangerous Toshirô Mifune.

The man behind the camera: Akira Kurosawa.
Isn't "Akira" just the coolest name?


Kim said...

This post made me really anxious to see this movie. It's going to be available through Netflix Online very soon so now I am very excited. I love Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. :)

Lolita said...

Yeah, the first half is a masterpiece! ;) I'm working hard to find another copy!

Mykal said...

Lolita: I tried out for a sales job once in my early floundering days in New York. One day (very early on) the boss called me into his office and fired me, saying: "You couldn't sell a fireplace in the Arctic."

That to say, don't be depressed about floundering a bit. That's what being young is for. -- Mykal

Oh, great movie. You did pick the right one to blow the blues away.

Queen of the Glamourati said...

Hi. I'm new to this site altogether, but I LOVE your blog. I'm a huge fan of classic cinema, and just film in general. Your layout is very cute and creative, as well. Kudos.

Lolita said...

Haha, that was harsh! What an asshole.
Yes, I just hope I can finish watching it soon!

Queen of the Glamourati:
Welcome! I'm glad you like my blog! Thank you. You will probably notice that I review a wide range of films, from silent classics to really new movies. I hope you will stick around!

Anonymous said...

Where did you get that photo of Mifune?!