High and Low

High and Low ★★★★

In his penultimate collaboration with Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune plays Kingo Gondo, a businessman about to risk it all for his aim of controlling the corporation where he is one of the directors. The film begins with a ten minute heated up conversation between the directors with respect to the future of the company and control over decisions. At one point one of the executives makes his business philosophy quite clear and resonant, "We don't sell shoes if they don't wear down." This is where the meaning of the film's title "High and Low" (the Translation of the Japanese title is Heaven and Hell) first comes into prominence. The film throughout it's runtime refers to the class difference in the Japanese society, which ultimately forms the essential reason for the entire plot existing in the first place.

High and Low is my first noir by Akira Kurosawa but honestly it would be foolish to doubt the capabilities of Mr. Kurosawa as a filmmaker in any settings or characters. Leave it to him to form together a definite nail biting police procedural that stays so close to the policemen that the viewer ultimately becomes part of the service. The film is structured quite like Ikiru in that it can easily be divided into two parts. The first half aims at ensuring the safety of the kidnapped child and is definitely the more emotionally draining part of the film while the second half aims at catching the kidnappers and is the more happening half. Kurosawa gives some really great moments where the amalgam of images and sound create the definite moments by which to remember the film. The final sequence in the police investigation and the ending of the first half are some really golden moments that establish the hero factor that reoccurs throughout Kurosawa's filmography.

It's hard not to feel the brimming quest for humanity in High and Low. The film obviously deals with the class divide but in a way that essentially points all fingers at human nature rather than the social status. Capitalism obviously is one of the themes under inspection but the film highlights the good and the bad of everything. Towards the beginning we are introduced to the greedy directors who would rather profit over the wellbeing of their customers but amongst them is Gondo who not only wishes for more reliable products for the public but also hatches a near perfect plan to become the chief of the company. Then there is Gondo's Chauffeur, who is poor but overwhelmed by the extraordinary support he has got from Gondo and works his own fair share in the police investigation while the kidnapper, another poor medical student, ultimately ends up kidnapping a child and killing people. I'm a little conflicted about exactly what Kurosawa might be going for here, but I think that ultimately it ends up being less about social status but more about the choices we make.

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