High and Low

High and Low ★★★★½

A meticulous procedural, brilliantly choregraphed by a master director, High and Low is a film told in two halves. It starts high above the slums in a wealthy shoe company executive's ultra-modern home, lingers awhile, and then explores the less fortunate side of Japan's city.

For almost the entire first hour we are inside what I can best describe as Hitchcock's wet dream. In the confines of a single living room of a house overlooking the town, tension is built from phone calls, the kidnapper callously and bitterly taunting the rich man with his demands. The corporate capitalist culture, where a guy is willing to let a kid die to cement his own ambitions and doesn't seem too ashamed of it, is depicted fully formed. This sharp and tight first half climaxes with a brilliant scene on a speeding train. Th film then loosens up, as we follow the procedural to catch the criminal.

At times this seems almost like we're viewing the first half of the crime as God looking down at the mortals from heaven, and the second half as the Devil watching from the murky depths of hell. It is a film that expands its scope before your very eyes, as it begins as an intimate character study in a penthouse, and by the end swells into a nationwide manhunt for the kidnapper. The film refuses to fully victimize anybody; the rich man is a victim to a less fortunate man, who is indirectly victimized by the man he's victimizing. Yes that last sentence makes perfect sense.

Here's what really got me thinking. The social commentary aspects of the film are strongly mirrored in the most recent Best Picture winner, Parasite. And what worries me about the future of our species is that, save for a few technological advances, the films could literally switch release dates and still both be just as relevant and timely as a critique of, well, the parasitic nature of humanity caused under capitalist society. This is not a fully formed point but I can't stop thinking about it and I just had to say something.

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