For those who have never seen it, Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952) plays a little like Frank Capra’s better known It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), but the opposite way around. Instead of Jimmy Stewart’s suicide thoughts leading to his finding of reasons to carry on living, we have the magnificent Takashi Shimura finding a different kind of affirmation with the knowledge of his own impending death. I consider Ikiru the greater acheivement, and to be Kurosawa’s masterpiece: sad, simple yet profoundly existential, humane and strangely triumphant. It contains some of the most moving film moments I have ever seen, and Shimura’s central performance is quite simply extraordinary. Roger Ebert’s final comment in his review of the film captures its brilliance:
“Over the years I have seen Ikiru every five years or so, and each time it has moved me, and made me think. And the older I get, the less Watanabe seems like a pathetic old man, and the more he seems like every one of us.“
My full review is here: http://iambags.blogspot.com/2007/12/great-films-73-ikiru-akira-kurosawa.html
Ikiru runs at the BFI Southbank from 22-31 July, and hopefully will be touring around the country afterwards. I urge anybody with an open heart to see it.