One of Kurosawa's most personal movies, RECORD OF A LIVING BEING
suffers from a lack of story. Toshiro Mifune plays Kiichi
Nakajima, a foundry owner living in fear of dying from an atomic bomb
or radiation. His fear
consumes him so much that he wants to move his whole family to
Brazil, but is blocked from any action by their court
injunctions. Without any avenue of escape, he slowly descends
And that's pretty
much the whole
story, which runs close to two hours. An almost
Mifune does a fine job conveying Nakajima's madness, but is not allowed
to reveal anything else about the character or his past. Two
prior, Kurosawa made IKIRU,
a similar film about an older man trapped
inside his own anxieties, but in that film, we were allowed to know
Kanji Watanabe, played by Takashi Shimura.
IKIRU showed a complete, although fragmented, picture of one man's
life. All we know about Nakajima is that he fears the bomb.
not enough. This might sound blasphemous to fans of Mifune, but
it might have worked better if the older and subtler Shimura were
allowed to play the lead in this film.
But after SEVEN
SAMURAI, Mifune was the
star in Japan, which is likely why Kurosawa cast him as
the lead and relegated Shimura to a smaller part. Yet it is
Shimura who comes off as the more sympathetic figure as a local member
of the medical board who follows Nakajima's journey into madness.
RECORD OF A LIVING BEING is not really a misfire - Kurosawa did exactly what he wanted to do with this film - but it is one of his least accessible works, despite the important topic, and definitely not the place to start if you are new to Kurosawa. ½ - JB
ALL YOUR QUOTE BELONG TO US
"Why can't you say some mature words? You only peep
on my assets! All are not loyal!"
---- bad subtitles on a Hong Kong DVD of RECORD OF A LIVING BEING
This is the first time I experienced Kurosawa on something other than a Criterion DVD release, and my review may be skewed due to the unpleasantness of having to follow a story through horrendous subtitles. Along with the quote above, I noted these unique turns of phrase: "Say something! Don't look like a man!" and one that should be inducted to the Bad Subtitle Hall of Fame immediately: "Chung wanted to find a piece of peace land on earth. In South America. Planned to migrate to Basil." After seeing this film presented so horribly, I will not review another Kurosawa film from this company. Nor will I ever migrate to Basil. - JB