Monday, March 26, 2012


Watched Akira Kurosawa's Dodesuka-den (1970), an interesting Japanese film about a group of dysfunctional poor families living in what appears to be a dump, or some marginal area on the edge of a city, struggling with mental problems, the ravages of alchohol, marital discord, poverty, homelessness, and machismo run amok. It is a sad movie, heartrending too, and one feels especially for a little boy trying to keep his delusional father alive by begging and picking up scraps; an abused and overburdened niece with a lazy lout of an uncle who rapes her; a young man who lives in the fantasy that he runs a communter trolley; a man with serious tourettes-like symptoms who has a rude. angry wife (though apparently loyal) that he has to defend to his office mates. The only sane fellow in the bunch appears to be an older monk-like engraver, who ventures outside of his hut every so often to steer the crazies back to reality. One storyline in this series of vignettes is about a broken man, apparently the result of an infidelity, whose wife returns but cannot shake him from his stupor and anger to achieve forgiveness. Comedy is provided by two drunk wife-swappers. A chorus of women, who meet around the public spigot to wash clothes, fills in details as they observe their surroundings. What is unclear to me is why, even in this society that appears to provide a smidgen of charity to some in this group, that no one stepped in to help the child who becomes sick with food poisoning (several residents were clearly aware that he was ill and unlikley to get help from his delusional father). I watched a lot of these movies when I was young, and I can't say if the acting was good or bad, especially with the exaggerated style often present in this generation of movies. It is a very personal film, as the viewer goes right into the huts of the downtrodden. I wondered too, if the time period was right after the war, or at some later date that reflected a reality of life few in the West are aware existed.

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