Saturday, 30 August 2008

HAKUCHI/The Idiot (1951)

Kurosawa turned this film in at 260 minutes and the studio cut it by 100 minutes. Most of the cuts come in the first half of the movie. It is a tribute to Akira Kurosawa that the film is still very watchable and, indeed, still makes sense. In his introduction to the film Alex Cox tells the rather sad story that towards the end of his life Kurosawa returned to the same studio to make another film and spent much of his spare time in the studio film vaults opening unlabeled cans of film, trying to find the cut footage from THE IDIOT. I've never really been into Dostoevsky and have not read the novel on which the film is based. In this case it is probably an advantage. It is not my favourite Kurosawa but it's not my least favourite either (I've never been over fond of his THE BAD SLEEP WELL) and there is much to admire in this story of a traumatised man who finds that he cannot lie. Performances are top notch as usual with lead actress Setsuko Hara outstanding as the femme fatale loved by the idiot of the title (brilliantly played by Masayuki Mori) and his cynical friend played by Toshiro Mifune. The great Takashi Shimura has a supporting role. Beautifully shot in the snowy north of Japan the film looks almost gothic at times (particularly Mifune's decaying mansion). Not a masterpiece (although maybe that is not Kurosawa's fault) but obviously very personal to the director and, as such, a must for his admirers. Rating ***

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

Just the thought of the old maestro sadly searching film cans for his cut footage is shameful. The snowy climes and gothic trappings make this one sound worth seeing for all the reasons you mentioned.