Ikiru, Akira Kurosawa

by Lowen Howard

1952. Film. Similar thematically to “A Christmas Carol”, but without the fantastical elements. A stodgy bureaucrat (Takashi Shimura) who has accomplished little else in his career than job security learns that he will soon die. Panicked, he attempts to distract his conscience with vain pleasures and cheap thrills, until he’s stirred by a haunting ballad he hears in a seedy tavern. Narrative structure is very odd, yet simple. Though ultimately a sober morality tale, Kurosawa weaves a good deal of humor throughout. Highly recommended.