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Brian D

Film Club Oct - Nov 2017 - High and Low

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Brian D   

I will start this Film Club thread with a goofy ad filled with sensational blurbs meant to get you to watch Kurosawa’s High and LowEasy to rent on Amazon or ITunes.

 

“HIGH AND LOW is really great…if we went with it I'd be more than happy to re-watch. I mean,  Kurosawa!” - NBooth

 I'd be excited to watch anything by these directors!” – Rob Z

“Let's go with High and Low.  I'll try to start a thread soon!” – Brian D

“HIGH AND LOW is high on my to-watch list for my PhD research!” – Joel Mayward

 

 

I hope you are inspired to watch with us!!!

 

Edited by Brian D

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Brian D   

Other (more serious) stuff meant to get you to watch High and Low :

 

 

-A.O. Scott on High and Low : “One of the best detective thrillers ever filmed.”


- Roger Ebert on High and Low (sort of spoiler): “Few Japanese directors would have thought to adapt one of Ed McBain's crime stories, for example, but Kurosawa, reading King's Ransom, found the materials for one of his most challenging films, "High and Low" (1962). In it, a wealthy man is told his son has been kidnapped. He must sell everything to raise the ransom. Then it's discovered that the kidnapper mistakenly kidnapped the son of the millionaire's chauffeur instead. Is this boy worth the same ransom? As the eyes of the millionaire and the workingman meet in a shot of stunning power, Kurosawa confronts the question of whether all lives are equal.”

 

 

-In a 3-way tie with 2 other Kurosawa films for 1st place on Guillermo del Toro’s favorite Criterion films list.

 

-#3 on Scott Derrickson’s list of his favorite Kurosawa films.  On A & F, he noted that the top 20 on his list are all masterpieces.  To emphasize the point, High and Low was #3.

Edited by Brian D

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Brian D   

Questions: (lots of spoilers!)

-What did you love about this film?  What did you struggle with?

-Haunted by the final shot of the faces interposed.  How does this scene and this shot impact the film?

-How does the title interact with the film?  Why High and Low?  It's adapted from a novel called King's Ransom, which could signify a different meaning and intention.

-Do you have any thoughts about Gondo's change of course?  What prompted it?  What does it mean for you as you look at the film as a whole?

-Fascinating that this is on Joel's list of films to watch for his PhD research.  Joel, can you please share more about that? 

-For those who know Kurosawa's works well: does this relate or compare in interesting ways with his other films? 

-Mystified by the intern and the way the film associates him with dead-end poverty.  Help me out, someone...am I understanding this right?  Extrapolating from modern Western societies, this intern would eventually be able to make a good deal more money a few years down the road.  Would an intern like this have been in a different situation at this time in Japanese history?  Perhaps I don't understand this character's profession correctly. 

-Share your own questions as well!

Edited by Brian D

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HIGH AND LOW is one of my favorite Kurosawas as well. It's a master class in directing, script, and in acting, particularly from Mifune and Nakadai. If you only know those two from Samurai pictures, this will greatly expand your understanding of their achievement as film actors.

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Brian D   

When you mentioned Nakadai, I took a look to see who he played in the film.  I was just recalling how his and the Bosun character register so strongly as characters with seemingly almost no introduction at all.  If I go by this example, I would say that Kurosawa has a gift for bringing in characters that arrive in a film fully formed, as if you had met them before or were instantly familiar with them. 

Yes, a master class indeed on all of those levels.  I'd like to add that the sound design of the film is masterful....especially in the sounds of the final scene and in one of the climactic scenes in which the music seems incongruous but overwhelming.  And that telephone, signaling another round of dread with each ring...  The final scene's jarring sounds could in fact be seen as illustrations of a certain desperate state of the soul. 

 

 

Edited by Brian D

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Froggy   

As to a couple of Brian's questions, I thought the title High and Low referred to stations in life of the characters, which was mirrored by the locations of where they lived.  And I understood the character working in the hospital to be some sort of orderly, which wouldn't be someone who was on his way up in life.

I'm used to Kurosawa films with Mifune being period pieces (I haven't seen Stray Dogs), so this was an interesting change.  I liked the 60s fashions, not that they were striking in any particular way but just because it strikes a chord of nostalgia in me since the 60s is when I grew up.  (I had the same reaction to A Serious Man.)  Did anyone else think some the joking on the part of the detectives seemed out of place?  It wasn't the usual sardonic police humor, but more of a sense of laughing a bit at Gondo's misfortune.

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NBooth   

Not to interrupt the flow, here, but I got my habds on a copy of this and will be watching this weekend. 

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Brian D   
15 hours ago, Froggy said:

As to a couple of Brian's questions, I thought the title High and Low referred to stations in life of the characters, which was mirrored by the locations of where they lived.  And I understood the character working in the hospital to be some sort of orderly, which wouldn't be someone who was on his way up in life.

I'm used to Kurosawa films with Mifune being period pieces (I haven't seen Stray Dogs), so this was an interesting change.  I liked the 60s fashions, not that they were striking in any particular way but just because it strikes a chord of nostalgia in me since the 60s is when I grew up.  (I had the same reaction to A Serious Man.)  Did anyone else think some the joking on the part of the detectives seemed out of place?  It wasn't the usual sardonic police humor, but more of a sense of laughing a bit at Gondo's misfortune.

That's an interesting question about the joking of the police detectives.  There may be some truth to the idea that the breezier tone of the middle-act police investigation scenes is at odds with the gravity of the 1st and 3rd acts.  Honestly, though, I enjoyed those investigation scenes so much that it didn't occur to me.  I coasted along with them, delighted that such a high-level filmmaker as Kurosawa would stoop down to revel not only in the twisty crime logistics but also in the very lively humor of those police discussions.  Those police meetings seem like deep dives into the genre of the police procedural, yet with a crackling energy and levity. 

I can see, though, how the film when viewed as a whole might break down a little from that sharp tonal shift in the middle.  It makes it slightly more difficult to piece it together in our minds as a complete work.  The 1st and 3rd acts, though, are also not without their own dark humor and crime genre elements.

This is so fun to talk about... would love to hear what others think of this issue.

Edited by Brian D

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On 25/10/2017 at 7:16 PM, Brian D said:

-Fascinating that this is on Joel's list of films to watch for his PhD research.  Joel, can you please share more about that? 

My research is focused on the films of the Dardennes, and they recently gave a list of 79 of their "favorite" films to a Belgian film website, which was picked up at Indiewire. The list is fascinating to me for the themes and connections between films, both in style and content. Social realism prevails on the list, as do coming-of-age or films about childhood. Lots of urban landscapes and visions of poverty or the underbelly of society. They also include a lot of films which are noteworthy for their ethical dilemmas, ones where both the characters and the audience are forced to reckon with complex moral choices, usually involving mortality. From Kurosawa, they listed Ikiru, Red Beard, and High and Low

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