The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again. But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
“Usually I waste no love on the rich.”
There are only two Japanese directors I can name off the top of my head. One is Hayao Miyazaki, who is responsible for pretty much every animated Japanese movie to have broken through in English speaking countries. Then other is Akira Kurosawa, who is responsible for… Well, that’s just the thing. As aware as I am of his existence and importance in the history of cinema, as I began to write this review, I realised I know very little about his work, and why it’s important. I’ve seen a few of his movies here and there, but never enough to get sense of who he was as film maker. So this year, I’m gonna use Foreign Language Weekends to fill this hole in my move nerd credentials. Starting with High and Low.
Shoe manufacturing executive Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) has gathered his co-executives to his apartment. Gongo is worried about the slipping quality of their product and proposes high expenditures now that will see greater profits in the future. But his short sighted colleagues want the easy money now, so they leave, letting Gongo know that he will be voted out of the company the next day. But Gongo is one step ahead of them. In recent months, he has secretly bought up enough stock to now be the majority share holder. All he needs to do is pay off the men who leant him the money to buy the stocks, and full control of the company is his.
But his victory is short lived when he gets a phone call from a kidnapper, claiming to have Gongo’s son and demanding 30 million yen. After a brief moment of panic, Gongo’s son is found safe and sound at home and the phone call is written off as a prank. Until, Gongo realises that his chauffer’s son is missing. The phone call was real, the kidnappers just have the wrong kid. Now, will Gongo forfeit his professional dreams and family’s financial future by spending every cent he has on the ransom for a child that isn’t even his?
High and Low is well over two hours long, and the initial kidnapping plot is played out before the end of the first hour. So things should seem padded out and bloated and stretched a little thing. Yet, for all of that, High and Low is pretty riveting from start to finish. It’s one of those movies where the surface story is just an excuse to get to some really interesting character moments. The kidnapping might be the inciting event and external reason for these characters to come together, but it’s the internal battle that Gongo faces that makes the story so compelling. igh and Low High and KLHiugh High andljuvgcklj
Now that I’ve seen High and Low, I may not have a better understanding of Kurosowa as a film maker and story teller, but I do know that I’m going to enjoy going deeper into his filmography.