I recently saw Ikiru, a brilliant film by Akira Kurosawa. The story is somewhat based on the novella The Death of Ivan Iylich by Leo Tolstoy. It is the story of a man who learns that he is dying of stomach cancer and realizes that he hasn't lived his life properly. The main difference is that the petty bureaucrat knows he is dying and has time to amend ways and live his life properly.
I was really impressed by the cinematic aspects of the film. There's a scene where Watanabe (Takashi Shimura in a great performance) is riding in a car and you can see the reflection of the city with neon lights on the car's surface, or another scene at he the end of the movie where the camera is framed by children's monkey bars as Watanabe is singing his theme on a swing in a park-realizing that he has accomplished something worthwhile in his life. There are several more as well. But this film illuminates Kurosawa?s moral vision that people must do good through their actions, which unite people in this case Watanabe connects with the mother who want a cesspool turned into a park, where children can play enjoy it rather than risk infectious diseases that threaten them from the cesspool.
There's a bit about a hat that is a symbol for the new Watanabe, that has great significance in the film. I wonder if the Coen brothers borrowed this motif for Miller's Crossing.
The Criterion DVD has first-rate packaging with two discs. Furthermore, the film has another excellent commentary from Stephen Price. There is also a documentary on the making of the film, as well as another on the career of Kurosawa, which was enlightening in that it revealed that Kurosawa edited his own films and contributed to them in the smallest details including specific instructions about music, props, clothes, location, etc... He is a perfectionist who was very controlling about the final product. He meticulously drew out storyboards for every shot-a true master.