If you study the course of Kurosawa's career, you can
notice "companion" films. The most obvious
and its quasi-sequel SANJURO,
but there is also THRONE
BLOOD and RAN
(both bleak stories based on Shakespeare) and THE BAD
SLEEP WELL and HIGH AND LOW, two "modern-day" films that
share many of
the same cast members as well as a story concerned with
the inequities of the Japanese economy.
Like most of Kurosawa's greatest films,
LOW is a movie that,
soon after you've seen it for the first time, you may want to watch it
again to enjoy it on a complete different level. On the
level, HIGH AND LOW is an
engrossing story of Kingo Gondo, a high-powered corporate executive on
the verge of taking over his company, suddenly having to deal with the
kidnapping of his young son. Ready
to pay the huge ransom and thus ruin his career (he needs the money for
the takeover, since the other executives are ready to kick him
out), but when it is discovered the kidnapper grabbed the wrong boy,
has a change of heart. Will he follow through with his
and risk the death of his chauffeur's son? Toshiro Mifune once again
the role of a modern executive well, and is matched by Tatsuya
Nakadai's gentle and charming portrayal of an amiable police detective.
On the socio-political level, HIGH AND LOW is another film in a series of Kurosawa's gendai-geki (modern-day) dramas examine the problems of a post-war Japan struggling with the gap between the rich and the poor in a growing economy. Known as HEAVEN AND HELL in Japan, the film takes us from the "Heaven" of Gondo's luxury apartment high on a hill to the "Hell" of the alleys of the city where zombie-like junkies wander around waiting for their next fix.
But it is on the technical level that I most enjoy HIGH AND LOW. The first hour of the film takes place in Gondo's apartment, which is soon filled with detectives. As with THE LOWER DEPTHS, Kurosawa is not intimidated when limited to a single set and a large cast, and the first half of the film is an experiment on how many interesting ways you can arrange seven or eight characters on a widescreen. One could probably do a college thesis on the constantly varying arrangements and what they mean in terms of the characters and their relationships to each other. The second half of the film, in which the police attempt to track down the kidnapper, is filmed more dynamically and, as with STRAY DOG, shows Kurosawa's fascination with police procedure. There is even one experimental shot where Kurosawa adds a dash of color for emphasis, something Hitchcock had already played with in SPELLBOUND.
Not typical Kurosawa, but excellent Kurosawa just the same. ½ - JB