Ikiru ★★★★★

Part of:
5 Directors x 5 Unseen Films – Round 1

Dying is very difficult.
-Kanji Watanabe

After spending a lifetime barely existing behind a desk how does one know how to suddenly start enjoying what little is left of life? If this would be a Hollywood film Kanji Watanabe, after receiving news of his terminal cancer, would go on a grand adventure discovering the joys he had been missing on, reconnecting with family and loved ones while changing the lives of everyone he comes into contact with while it all being hilarious in the process.

While Akira Kurosawa was often accused of being too Western in his film making, this would not be a great example of those accusations. Mr. Watanabe not only does not go on a grand adventure, but he spends most of the film attempting to force himself to enjoy life while having no idea how to do so. In a fantastic performance by long time Kurosawa collaborator, Takashi Shimura, that sees Watanabe start out the film in complete bewilderment with no direction as he's stuck in self-pity and self-loathing.

The narrative structure of the film is also brilliant as the third act takes an unexpected turn to tell Watanabe's story in an incredibly effective manner that I don't want to spoil. It's hard to explain without saying to much, but it actually manages to build frustration and suspense with nothing more then dialogue and no real action to speak of. The story itself is brilliant in that instead of making the ignorant statement that finding meaning in one's last days on Earth is universal, it instead makes a valid argument that it's unique to the individual.