Wednesday, March 9, 2011

HIGH AND LOW (Japanese) (1963)

A brilliant combination of finely crafted suspense thriller and brooding human drama from Japan’s legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. It’s an interesting beginning when any film begins with tension felt by its lead character. We see an ambitious and dedicated executive of National shoes, Mr. Gondo in baffling position.Unlike majority opinion for going attractive and inferior product in meeting with his fellow business partners, he wanted to make both trendy and durable shoes without compromising on quality. His dilemma and tension heightened further by a queer kidnapping of his own kid. Within moments he came to know that the kidnapper kidnapped the wrong boy (his servant’s son) instead of his own. The hefty ransom demand of 30 million is worth the life savings of Mr. Gondo; if he pay the amount, he’ll be bankrupt and so he adamantly refused to pay and informed the police instead. As soon as cops with a clever young inspector took the charge of the case, it kept taking the different turns. Does saving the income of your lifetime is more important than saving a life of a man? Kurosawa raised the pointer. Gondo convinced and changed his heart to pay the ransom and cops set the plan to nab the criminal but unfortunately the kidnapper is smart chap. Is it the Money- the only motive of kidnapper or it’s a personal grudge? The next is all edge on the seat thrill ride till its end.

Watching three inseparable actors of Kurosawa cinema is always a treat for all his ardent fans. Master’s favorite-Toshiro Mifune plays Mr. Gondo here along with fine supporting act by Tatsuya Nakadai as young inspector Tokura and Takeshi Shimura in a short cameo as Police chief. But more than that what’s surprising experience for me is the way Kurosawa treated the whole film, as I haven’t expected such an impeccable thriller from Kurosawa. The thrill and drama run parallel to each other for almost first hour on just a single setting reminds me Lumet’s ’12 Angry Men’ as there are many characters remained in frames for long time and making their presence felt in the narration. One may notice the rushes of Hitchcokian elements too in many of the scenes. The brilliant depiction of police surveillance and investigation pursuing to trace the kidnapper reminds me Fritz Lang and Melville’s matchless classics. There is a long scene where more than thirty cops gathered in police station on hot afternoon reporting their investigation duties and explaining every available clues and leads. And still amid all these, you’ll see the distinct humanitarian flame of Kurosawa throughout the film. I just loved the way he altered the whole film with the short conversation between Gondo and the criminal before the end. It makes you think hard about the criminal and possibly shift your sympathy too! Well, that’s what the touch of Master!

Need I say ‘Must watch.’


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