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Monday, September 09, 2013

High and Low (1963) d. Akira Kurosawa

Toshiro Mifune as wealthy women's shoe manufacturer Kingo Gondo in Akira Kurosawa's High and Low (1963)

Movie Review
High and Low (1963)
 d. Akira Kurosawa
Criterion Collection #24

  High and Low is Kurosawa's take on the police procedural, with source material from Ed McBain's King's Ransom novel from his "19th Precinct" series.  You can tell the difference between a police procedural and a film noir often because the police procedural deals with actual police doing actual police work to solve an actual crime, and film noir typically features private detectives sorta kinda trying to figure out a situation where a crime may or not have actually been committed OR accused of committing a crime themselves.
The kidnapper in High and Low in the belly of the Yokohama underworld

  But of course, like everything Kurosawa did from the early 1950s to mid 1960s it was a fucking classic of the genre.  It's the first non-Samurai Kurosawa picture I've seen.  Based on his imdb filmography it looks like he did a bunch of non Samurai titles before he really started churning out the hits.  There are many features that make High and Low a compulsively watchable title:

 1. Directed by Akira Kurosawa
 2.  Starring Toshiro Mifune as wealthy Industrialist and women's shoe manufacturer(!) Kingo Gordo (that's Mr. Gordo to you, friend.)
3.  Set in contemporary Yokohama- exotic locale for a Japanese film.
4.  Adorably police work by 50s Japanese Cops, who apparently have so little to do that they can muster the entire police force to work on a single kidnapping case.

  As a bonus, the Hulu Plus version includes an actual extra from the DVD- an interview with Actor Tsutomu Yamazaki (plays the kidnapper/villain).  I know I've said this before, but I'm very hesitant to take the current heaven-sent situation with Crtierion Collection/Hulu Plus for granted.  As I write this Hulu is taking offers on being SOLD.  This New York Times article from last month clearly suggests that the current way of Hulu is at risk, and Criterion Collection already left one streaming provider (Netflix) because it was unhappy with the direction of the service.

 My feeling is that the Criterion Collection could disappear from Hulu overnight, essentially, if certain events occur, like if Hulu is sold to a major media conglomerate, for example.  So while these review may seem a trifle obsessive, they are completed with the thought that nothing lasts forever.

  Subtracting the films out of the first 25 Criterion Collection titles that I've seen before beginning this project, there are only two unseen titles left- A Night To Remember- which I'm going to have to pay for, and Salo/120 Days of Sodom, which I'm going to have to purchase or borrow.

  I'm not recommending it, but if you were going to sample one twenty minute portion of High and Low I would check out the last 20 minutes- particularly the scenes set in the 60s heroin underworld of Yokohama- priceless/amazing stuff.

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