- Kurosawa’s loose take on Hamlet (about corporate corruption in contemporary Japan) is simply one of the great master’s finest works. The first 20 minutes- the wedding reception- gives the opening reception in The Godfather a run for its money and may be the greatest 20 minute stretch in any Kurosawa film
- The story certainly is Kurosawa’s worldview- even the title- a dog-eat-dog nihilistic world. Cynical
- Kurosawa combines the deep focus mastery of Ikiru with the widescreen canvas of TohoScope (this is his second use of such after The Hidden Fortress in 1958) for an end to end jaw-droppingly gorgeous result—there are 40-50 frames that may be counted as Kurosawa’s finest 100 to this point in his career and he’s already made 17 features already
- The remarkable mise-en-scene frame set-ups fly at you almost too fast to take note of them all in the first 20 minutes- there’s symmetry in the wedding reception line. At 7 minutes you get a great shot of three rows of depths of field: the first row is the reporters in the foreground facing back, the second row is the two detectives, and the background you have the two men from the corporation implicated in the crimes. At 8 minutes you get a row of people at long dining table eating at an angle with the host or emcee of the reception in the foreground in profile- stunning deep focus
- Not to get too Tarantino “I think this might just be my masterpiece” on us here but at the end of the wedding scene two reporters say “this is the best one act I’ve ever seen” and the other goes “no, it’s just a prelude”- as four reporters staggered throughout the frame at different depths so brilliantly
- It is the best score from Masaru Satô—it is jazzy, but has a strong force to it as well- reminds me of Elmer Bernstein’s The Sweet Smell of Success Score (both fit their films perfectly)—we get it in the opening credits here and then twice with newspaper montages setting up the story
- Near constant deep focus triangulation in the frame with faces and bodies—heads blocking corners of the frame, creating a frame within a frame, obstruction and design
- This is a sprawling a saga—151 minutes, a massive cast/ensemble, suicide, scandal—tale of revenge. It is a powerful story.
- Even has a ghost like Hamlet
- A small role but Chishû Ryû is in the film- Ozu’s actor
- Again there are 40-50 of these deep focus, wide angle spectacular shots– but at 90 minutes we get one of the best in the film- Mifune in the foreground in profile and two men, at each side of him, in the background. Kurosawa knew he had something here and holds this one for a four minutes- I wish it were longer- haha- a standout.
- At 111 minutes at the munition factory—like Rossellini’s use of rubble in Germany Year Zero—strong work—and then to top it off Mifune has two men at the side in the foreground and Mifune climbs up a little manmade landfill in the deep background—marvelous
- Ends fittingly— no cop-out happy ending – evil wins—camera pulls back
- A masterpiece
Spot on! Very happy about this! This is truly a big masterpiece and that makes 1960 – the greatest year in cinema history – even stronger! Do you think after this study you’ll move Kurosawa higher?
@Cinephile, what are some other great movie years in your opinion?
@Azman– Some others are 2019, 2007, 1939, 1959, 1967, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1994. Probably I’m missing some.
@Cinephile– yeah– 1960 is just one of those few years where you can’t judge much by a film’s placement in the top 10. And yes- there have been a couple revelations- Ikiru and this– seems inevitable that I’ll be moving Kurosawa up regardless of what happens from 1961- on
Damn this only reaffirms the champion
the best year of cinema.
Where do they put it 5? maybe 6? this movie is superior to the Apartment
I’m a big Kurosawa fan and I had just watched this film about a month ago and immediately upon finishing it wondered why I hadn’t heard about this one more. I thought I was the only one who thought it was a masterpiece. More people should really check this one out, especially Kurosawa fans.
I’ve heard this described as the dress rehearsal for High and Low, much as Kagemusha is described as the dress rehearsal for Ran, but in this case the comparison does not do justice to the incredible accomplishment that is The Bad Sleep Well. I think it’s more accurate to state that here Kurosawa establishes the template for the sort of remarkable compositional precision and rigour that will typify his 1960s work. Yojimbo may be punctuated by a few highlight moments that outstrip it, and High and Low and Red Beard may advance the visual principles to even higher heights of perfection, but this should in no way diminish the achievement of this, seemingly lost to history, masterwork. A truly incredible film.
The tragically now defunct everyframeapainting channel had a great short video breaking down some of what Kurosawa accomplishes here. His example isn’t even necessarily a standout scene from the film, but it illustrates the consistent excellence at play in the film.
@Matt Harris— fantastic share here- thank you. Yes, man- if this is a dress rehearsal… haha. It has stuck with me as I wrap up this Kurosawa study (currently waiting for Ran on bluray so I may skip it and come back to it so I can wrap it up) easily as one of the highlights in a storied career filled with top 10 films, must-see’s, and masterpieces… if anything maybe Hidden Fortress is a bit of a dress rehearsal for this as he adjusts to the wider tohoschope frame…
How great is that Hitchcock line from the video you shared? If I knew that line I forgot it (and a determined not to forget again). Many films are simply ““photographs of people talking— which bears no relation to the art of cinema” … hitting the nail on the head. 10 years ago or so I said to myself if that’s all you’re doing, I don’t care how good the acting and writing are, your ceiling is a HR- Highly Recommend film and it has been sort of an unwritten (until now I guess) rule I use.
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