Friday, March 06, 2009

"The Bad Sleep Well" (Language - Japanese) (1960) - Movie Classics

There is an absolute stillness of statement in Kurosawa’s films. He always is very certain about what he is about to present and is unflinchingly brutal about it. Does not blink and the film looks like as though the whole crew shot it without taking a single break. That is the clarity you get when you watch this historic movie icon in his works. “The Bad Sleep Well” may be the darkest film I have seen of Kurosawa. It does not even meander the territory of cynicism for its shadiness because it would then implicate a tinge of doubt of being proven otherwise. But no, he wants us to know in this film that his motive is to give a clinical and sterile truth of the existing reality. That is the existence of pure evil.

And talking of evil, what other place than to venture the tricky region of corporate arena to get its underlying origins. Trimmed haircut, cleanly shaven with suits, shoes and ties, the post war Japan in the sixties seem to be the evolving battleground of private business getting its hands dirty in complete coherence with their conscience in its purest nature of beast’s den. While it is unfair to generalize the corporate reign, it is a field of comfortable devilishness. If there is a way to do a bad deed with a complete understanding of the circumstances for something good of course to them, then there is a job title for it.

And it is mostly the head of the kingdom and they take pride in their decisions when such acts of unmerciful corruption takes place. Such is Iwobachi (Masayuki Mori), an old and seasoned corporate criminal. We are invited in to the wedding reception of Iwobachi’s daughter Yoshiko (for some reason the actor’s name is not mentioned in imdb’s casts list) with Koichi Nishi (Toshirō Mifune). It reeks of uncomfortableness as the press is piling up to see the corruption between Iwobachi’s Public Corporation and his bidding scandal scheme with Dairyu Construction stages by their arrest in the function. Adding to that is the judgment and prejudice upon Nishi’s marriage to Yoshiko who is physically disabled and Nishi’s intention seen as an ulterior motive to boost up his career in the corporation. Nishi does have an ulterior motive which becomes the axis of this story.

This time around Kurosawa has couple of classic shots and lets the bigger part of his film takes precedence over his aesthetic preference. But those shots are impeccable. The one being the disturbed and terrified accomplice in Public Corporation’s corruption Shirai (Kô Nishimura) walking down the street seeing Wada ( Kamatari Fujiwara) from the lights of a car behind him. Wada is the class of people the general public is. Wada is a loyal and good soul but does not stand for the conscience and goes along with the scheme in fear and obedience to his masters. While he sees his boss’s machinations and cruelty, he cannot see past that they are capable of worse things than that. He becomes the man standing in the middle as of us between the worst of the kind in human, Iwobachi and a man seeking justice employing tactics of his own, Nishi.

Every single day and every single moment there happens the most horrific inhumane things in this world. Blasts, shootings, slicing people off and when violence is not enough, there is always humiliation and mutilation of human souls. But in the personal daily life of one, there is a momentary grievance and we continue the chores of the minutes we pass. I am not here for the inaction of those because honestly that is all can be done when we have far away detached ourselves physically from those situations. But the worst part about it is the failure to acknowledge of that part of us existing in its purest form in many others, evil. Evil to me is not the opposite of good but a characteristic of an animal. Nature’s work in action and there is no consolation for it. There is no facade of the miniscule possibility of love and care in it. Sure it does but it all vanishes in a jiffy when the main characteristic in their brains take over. It is not the pessimism but the transparency of seeing things of what they are. True that I do not want to see it and for that case no one wants to see it and when they see it, these philosophical ramblings are going to evaporate. Yet in the clearest of setting and brightest of minds, there is a greatest blunder in us not to notice that plain simple truth. You can see it in “The Bad Sleep Well”.

Now I go back to a film which I laid my wrath upon which executed a spirit of human in pieces without any redemption, “The Beijing Bicycle”. In that there is a clear indication of the harsh reality and I minced it in my review. After talking so much about the darkest nature of us in preceding paragraphs, what is the difference in this film to have the same concept being accepted and praised while in the other it was shot down and butchered? I believe that is the effect of Kurosawa taking an invisible wise figure stand in his films. In “The Beijing Bicycle” that seems to be in absence. A missing of such a character to make us swallow that bitter pill and that made it an unpleasant experience.

In Kurosawa’s films there is a stand of Zen way in his preaching. We do not infer not even an ounce of condescension or arrogance but sweetly hear rustic adages towards the simplicities and complexities of the lives we lead. The story telling in his pictures bode the property of our grandfathers and grandmothers at their peak of experience and old age sharing some wisdom not for us to change but to tell it as a piece to remember. We make our own mistakes and when the realization comes it is engraved as a lesson with the power of their words. Kurosawa does so in “The Bad Sleep Well” and it is for you to hear it.

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