High and Low

High and Low ★★★★★

As mentioned in the last review I posted (À l'intérieur), I am making up for my lack of writing of late by logging the best and the worst viewing experiences I had in the sizable bunch of films I've watched (that I hadn't seen previously) since my last review.

Not only did I go into this film blind, but rather entirely misinformed. Bizarrely enough, High and Low was introduced to me as a "Kurosawa comedy" and nothing else. "A Kurosawa comedy?" I thought, "how utterly enticing". I think it's safe to say that I've never been more delighted to be so misguided.

This has got to be, hands down, the best police procedural I've ever seen. From the multiperspectivity of the narrative structure and the way the perspectives are layered, to the shot composition and framing, to the commentary on class, honor, privilege, and profession; it's all brilliantly constructed. As I said to my friend while watching High and Low, the film feels like fodder for Tarantino pastiche in the best way possible. The film exudes a certain "coolness" in much of what it does without detracting from its more grave thematic explorations.

From the get-go, High and Low grips you with its high stakes situation and stylized direction only to twist that grip on you over and over, through genre subversions and an ending that drops its grip entirely, only to deliver a punch to the gut instead. From script to screen, High and Low is an undeniable masterpiece from a genre I normally don't enjoy. It's a tremendous feat that in 2020 one can watch a police procedural, a genre as oversaturated as superhero films, from 1963 and still find it as refreshing as I did. That's Kurosawa for you.

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