Living with Ikiru

Among Kurosawa’s films set in the twentieth century, Ikiru—which you can watch for free on Hulu this week—is probably the most widely seen and beloved. This soul-searching morality tale concerns Watanabe (the haunting Takashi Shimura), a widower and city worker nearing retirement who finds out that he has stomach cancer and must decide how to spend his remaining months. Though it was made only two years after the phenomenon of Rashomon, which put Kurosawa’s name on the art-house map in the U.S., it still took nearly eight years for Ikiru to be released here (in the meantime, the more exotic period films Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood, made after Ikiru,were distributed in the States). There’s little physical action, but emotionally, it’s tumultuous, and it’s one of Kurosawa’s most beautiful films, both in terms of the compositions of its images and the depth of its characters. In this short scene, marked by Kurosawa’s expressive camera work, meet Watanabe, at his most despairing after receiving the bad news.

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