Takashi Shimura.... Kanji Watanabe
Shinichi Himori.... Kimura
Haruo Tanaka.... Sakai [Kazue]
Minoru Chiaki.... Noguchi
Miki Odagiri....Toyo Odagiri, the young woman from the office
Bokuzen Hidari.... Ohara
Minosuke Yamada.... Subordinate Clerk Saito
Kamatari Fujiwara.... Sub-Section Chief Ono
Makoto Kobori.... Kiichi Watanabe, Kanji's Brother
Nobuo Kaneko.... Mitsuo Watanabe, Kanji's son
Nobuo Nakamura.... Deputy Mayor
Atsushi Watanabe....Other Patient in beginning
Isao Kimura....Intern
Masao Shimizu....Doctor
Yûnosuke Itô....The Novelist

Part One:

Ikiru is the story of Kanji Watanabe, a lonely, bureaucrat who works for city hall.

The film opens with the shot of an X-ray of Watanabe Kanji's stomach, and a voice over narration tells us that this stomach belongs to the "shujinko," the main character, of our story. He has cancer, but does not know it yet.

NOTE: Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, in his book, Kurosawa, makes a case that this first X-Ray image is of unknown origin; also, it differs from the one we see later when the young intern looks at it after Watanabe has left the consultation room. We know where the second image comes from because we see Watanabe exiting the X-Ray room with traces of barrium still on his lips. This second X-Ray suggests the cancer occupies a much larger area than the first on did. So, in the first image, was the cancer is still treatable? Perhaps operable? We don't know becuase the first iamge is what Yoshimoto calls an "impossible image whose origin cannot be accounted for diegetically." (194-195)

Then there is a cut to Watanabe working at his desk as Chief (kacho) of the Citizen's Section (shiminka) of City Hall. Surrounded by stacks of handwritten documents, he is going through a stack of papers and carefully affixing his seal to each one.

Cut to several women, neighborhood wives and mothers from Kuroe-cho, complaining about water that needs to be drained from near their dwellings as it is giving their children rashes. The land would be ideal for a playground, they observe. The clerk approaches Watanabe who tells him to send the women to the Engineering Section. And so the runaround commences: Environmental Section, Disease Prevention, Infectious Diseases, Pest Control, Sewage Department, Roads Department, City Planning Department, Fire Deaprtment, Child Welfare Section of the Education Depaprtment, or go to see the Ward Representative on the City Council. At each stop, the citizens are sent on to the next station to be someone else's probelm. And so it goes.

As the camera focuses on a bureacrat, nearly buried in paper, working at his desk, the voice-over narration informs us again that this is Mr. Watanabe, the main character of our story. It would be boring to talk about him now, though, because he is just passing time, trying to accomplish nothing. In fact, he is barely alive (kare wa ikite-iru towa ienai.)

A young woman, a member of the Citizen's Section, Miss Odagiri, laughs out loud at a joke that someone has circulated. When asked to read it aloud, it sounds like it could be about their section chief Watanabe: One workes says to another, "Hey, I heard you'ver never taken a vacation." "Right." "Is that because City Hall could not function with out you?" "No, it is because everyome would realize that City Hall does not need me at all." Giggles.

The narrator again: "Oh, my. This will never do. He might as well be a corpse. In fact, this man has been dead for more than twenty years." Once he had worked hard and been determined. But now he has neither determination nor initiative. City hall and its senseless drudgery has killed them both. He is so busy; but all he is doing is keeping his chair warm (isu o mamoru). In his world, doing nothing is the best way to keep one's position.

But is this OK? それで いいのか?

Cut back to the women of Kuroe-cho who continue to get the runaround from each to the departments they visit, always being told that they have to go to another department. Planning, Sewage, Water, Public Works, Health, Education, finally up to the Town Council and the Deputy Mayor who routes them back, finally, to the Citizen's Section where they started.

Although they start to file out, dejected, with their heads down, one woman storms back, furious. "How dare you? Giving us the runaround. Do you take us for fools? You are just killing time! All we want is to get the stinking cesspool cleaned up...You're just laughing at us. What a mockery of democracy. " It IS the Citizen's Section's responsibility, they insist. After venting, they storm out but since Watanabe is out, the staffcalls them back and has them fill out an application to get the land reclaimed and turned into a park.

Cut back to Watanabe's empty chair and desk. How unusual it is for him to be away. He'd almost pulled off a 30-year record of perfect attendance.

Watanabe earns a decent salary in his position, but his job is completely unfulfilling. Nothing he does seems to have any effect on anyone else, and he is overlooked and under appreciated. He rarely rocks the boat or takes any chances in his job; he is a Kafkaesque loser/anti-hero.

Watanabe's personal life is just as bleak. He is estranged from both his son and daughter-in-law. Cut back to the X-Ray room of the hospital. He is about to delivered of a shocking discovery when he goes to the doctor for his chronic stomach ailment.

Another patient there "helpfully" gives him the lowdown and what the doctor is likely to say to him if he really does have cancer ("It's just an ulcer"). When he hears the doctor's prognosis that he is fine, he knows that in reality he is doomed.


From the manner of the doctor's replies, he correctly guesses that his days are numbered. We learn from the doctor that he has barely six months to live.

Of course, he is shocked. He is stunned. As he exists the hospital he walks slowly along in complete silence. Kurosawa has kept the soundrack completely muted; then suddenly we hear the traffic sounds when a truck almost hits him. It paralleles the shock he feels.

He makes his way home and sits in the dark so that when his son and daughter-in-law come home, they do not see him. But they talk rather calculatingly about his retirement monies and how they could use it as collateral to buy a new house for them. When they discover his presence, it is very awkward. He clearly yearns to talk to his son, but he cannot initiate the conversation. All he can do is stutter, stammer or sit in silence, head bowed. After a wonderful sequence recalling his early life as a parent raising his son Mitsuo after his wife died, punctuated by Watanabe poignantly repeating his son's name, chanting it almost, "Mitsuo, Mitsuo, Mitsuo." He repeats his son's name like a matra, or an incantation; perhaps he is imploring his son to awaken and remember his father. Mitsuo calls down to him, "Father," and Watanabe responds, going halfway up the stairs hoping his son wants to talk with him...but he just asks his father to lock up before he goes to sleep. So Watanabe returns to his room, crawls underneath his futon and weeps uncontrollably. He is afraid. He is dying. His life has not amounted to much. What should he do? What can he do?

In his room are certificates of appreciation for his 30 years of service to the city. He is now a kacho, or section chief, but has he really done anything in his life? Has he ever really lived? Or has he just been like a "mummy" as the narrator has suggested? The next morning, someone from the office comes to his house to check up on him and the housekeeper learns that Watanabe has been leaving the house everyday but has not been showing up at work. Mitsuo consults his uncle and aunt and they wonder if he doesn't have a mistress somewhere.

Up till now, he has led a miserly existence, never spending any money on himself, and depriving himself of most of life's pleasures. Now he decides to take a more active role, and radically changes his lifestyle. He begins drinking and frequenting bars, taverns and "nomiya." In the next scene, he is in a little bar where he meets a hack writer who needs some sleeping medicine. Watanabe has a lot because he was apparently contemplating suicide, and he offers it to him.

The man is very grateful and since Watanabe needs someone to show him how to have a good time, he agrees to do it, to be his Mephistopheles (aka, the Devil). Watanabe has told the stranger what he cannnot tell his son: that he is dying of cancer, and the writer sees him as "interesting."

"Men are such fools," he observes. "They only realize how beautiful life is when they are face to face with death. And even those people are rare. Some die without knowing what life is. You are a fine man. You are rebelling against it. . .That's what impresses me. You've been a slave to life; now you are trying to master it. Man's duty is to enjoy life. It's against God's will not to do so. Man must have a lust for life. Lust is considered immoral but it is not. A lust for life is a virtue."

So out they go for an evening of pachinko parlors, drinking, dancing, womanizing--the whole hedonisitic experience. At one of the bars, the writer drunkenly tells a woman that Watanabe is a "Christ carrying a cross called cancer." You would die the moment you received such news, he claims, but "That's when he started to live."

In a piano bar featuring raucous boogie-woogie piano music and dancing, Watanabe requests a mournful love song from the 1920s, "Life is Short." [Actull;y called "The Gondola Song"]

"Inochi wa mijakashi" he sings, staring straight ahead. People move away from him, finding his demeanor oddly disturbing.

Life is so short, dear maiden,

so fall in love while your lips are still red

And before your passion cools

For there will be no tomorrow.

. . .Tomorrow will not come again.

Certainly not for Watanabe. A tear rolls down his cheek. He now knows what "no tomorrows" means. They move on to a strip joint. At the very first dance hall they visted, a girl took Watanabe's favorite old fedora hat, but now he is sporting a new, lighter colored one. It heralds the beginning of his new life.

But, of course, none of this revelry fulfills Watanabe.

Cut to the next morning. Watanabe is walking home and is spotted by the young woman from his office, Miss Odagiri. She has come to him for his seal on her resignation form. She is a bad fit for the bureaucratic office. She is bored, she says. "Nothing new ever happens. I've put up with it for one-and-a-half years. The only things new are you missing work and your new hat." She is lively and outgoing, always joking around which is not something bureaucracies value highly. She playfully calls him "the mummy," for he has been living like he was dead for 30 years! It is her energy that draws him to her. She is spontaneous, full-of-life, down-to-earth, simple but energetic. Everything that he is not. And she is carefree. Is it something of that "free" part that he wants?

He buys her new nylon stockings after he notices hers are worn out, something which she could never afford, andthen takes her out for somethins to eat. Her appetite for food, and for life, is strong. The writer had told Watanabe that people "need to have a greed/lust for life. We're taught that it is immoral but it isn't. The greed/lust to live is a virtue." Ms Odagiri displays this enthusiasm for life without inhibition. In one amusing scene, she tells him of her nick names for everybody in the section:

Sea Slug--slippery and evasive; somebody hard to pin down--that's Sub-Section Chief Mr. Ohno

The Ditch or Drain cover--someone who is damp all year round--that would be Ohara

Fly Paper--somebody who clings to people all the time--Mr. Noguchi

"Teishoku," the fixed meal, the Daily Special--somebody who is so ordinary, he has no special characteristics--Mr. Saito

Konnyaku, a gelatinous food--here it stands for someone who is faint-hearted, always quivering--that's Mr. Kimura

When she tells him her nickname for Watanabe--Mummy--it hurts but he can laugh at it, too. He know is is true; he has been living even though he is really just reading water. He might as well be dead.

He asks her to delay going back to the office and to spend the day with him doing fun things, which they do. He seems to become obsessed with her because of all she represents. She has the "lust for life" but without all the alcohol and sleaze. She just attacks whatever is in front of her with hunger and energy. He tries to tell her over dinner that the reason he has lived so long like a Mummy is for the sake of his son. She points out matter of factly that her son never asked him to do that. Children don't ask to be born; parents should not complain about how much they have suffered for the sake of their children. But she nails it--and him--when she says, "I know why you did it. You still adore him!" He smiles.

Meanwhile Watanabe's son and daughter-in-law have misconstrued the situation badly. They assume Miss Odagiri is his lover. The relationship angers his son, who believes that she is only after Watanabe's inheritance. His son doesn't understand him and thinks he is having a typical mid-life crisis. When Watanabe tries to tell his the truth about his condition the next morning at breakfast, Mitsuo cuts him off and scolds him for running around with a young woman. It devastates poor Watanabe.

Next scene, back at the office. It has been two weeks and Watanabe has remained out on sick leave. Rumors are rampant.

He continues to see Miss Odagiri but she is getting increasingly uncomfortable. She wants to know why he is pursuing her, and what Watanabe needs from her. At a coffee-shop, with a bunch of young women celebrating someone's birthday across the way, he finally blurts it out almost an hour and a half into the film, that he is dying of cancer and he needs her to teach him how to live. It is like when he almost drowned in lake as a child and his parents were not here to help him; everyhting was going black. Now he only has 6 months to live and he doesn't know what to do. Ms. Odagiri suggests he talk to his son but he replies "I have no son...He is far away." He is dying and wants to be able to just live one day of his life with all the fullness and meaning that she seems to be able to muster.

She does not know how to respond: "Why me?" He answers, that it "warms his old Mummy heart" just to see her; she is young and healthy, so incredibly alive. "That's why this old Mummy envies you. Before I die, I want to live just one day like you. I just want to DO something, but I don't know what."


She replies, "But all I do is eat and work." This sounds like a critical utterance to me; it does seem to speak of Kurosawa's sense of social classes and how the workers, the proletariat, are forced to live their lives very close to its essentials. It is all about meeting basic needs and surviving. "All I do is make this little things," she says, like these little toy rabbits. But this, she feels, connects her to all the little babies in Japan, and to a sense of play, a joie de vivre. He thinks it is all over for him, there is nothing he can do comparable to her simple tasks of working, eating, and making toys for Japanese children. But then, wait! He has an epiphany, a vision. There IS something he CAN do. Maybe it is not too late. This epihany is accompanied by the singing of "Happy Birthday" across the way. He keeps repeating as he walks down the stairs, "There is something I can do!" Watanabe will be reborn.

End of Part One


Part Two

Back at City Hall. Watanabe has returned to work much to the amazement of his staff who were convinced that he was going to resign any day now. He hands Ohno, his supposed successor, the plan to reclaim the area in Kuroe-cho that the housewives submitted. "Unless we do something about it," he says, "it will never materialize." But it is not possible, Ohno protests, "Muri desu." "It's not impossible if you put your mind to it," Watanabe insists. All the sections must cooperate. He calls for a bike to go out and inspect the area in question. He is acting; he is doing.

And then, suddenly, the narrator informs us that our hero,Watanabe, died five months later. The next scene is the wake at his house during which we see, through poignant flashbacks, how much he meant to people and how he made a difference at the end of his life.

Initially, reporters come to the wake and ask to see the Deputy Mayor. Apparently, he and the Parks Committee are taking full credit for the building of a local meighborhood park, but now the reporters are learning that it was really all due to Mr. Watanabe's efforts. They want to know who really pushed the project through to completion. They say that the neighborhood women feel Mr. Watanabe has been slighted, not even mentioned in the speeches when the opening ceremony for the park was held. He actually died in the park, we learn, and the neighborhood women feel he did not receive his proper due. The Deputy mayor tries to disabuse them of their notions; the Citizen's Section does not build parks; that is the Parks Department's job.

When the reporters press him tht Watanabe's death in their park may have been his silent protest, the Deputy Mayor counters that this is not possible; the autopsy revealed that the cause of death was an internal hemorrhage due to gastric cancer.

The reporters leave and the Deputy Mayor returns to the wake. He prattles on about how reporters twist the facts and how the work was done by everyone, not just one person. Sure, my hat is off to Watanabe's parrion, but everything he did was in the context of his office, his job. The idea that he went beyod these boundaries in order to facilitate ciizen's needs and made the park himself is nonsense. He himself must be wincing now!

Next, the women of Kuroe-cho come in to pay their respects. They weep profusely, revealing their love for Watanabe.

The Deputy Mayor and his staff, in their formal attire, take their leave and the atmosphere becomes more relaxed and casual. The section staff get their food and continue to drink. Mr. Kimura seems upset at the way the Deputy Mayor and all regarded Watanabe. They begin to puzzle over why he had changed about five months previously and whether he knew he had cancer. They think he did but Mitsuo assumes he did not know.

Cut back to Watanbe leaving the office to go inspect the area in question. it is raining heavily and water is everywhere. Piles of rubble dot the landscape. But by the light in his eyes, we know Watanable sees something else. He sees the park that can be.

Back to the wake, they talk about how Watanabe's persistence bothered the other section heads. He would not let them of the hook, even if it meant just sitting by their desk with his head bowed, waiting patiently until they acquiesced. He dogs each of the section chiefs, and even the Deputy Mayor. He will not take no for an answer.

The guests at the wake continue to get drunker and speak more freely. Kimura recalls how he saw Watanabe in so much pain that he could barely walk; but walk the corridors he did, pressing his case relentlessly. Out at the construction site, he falls one day and the women rush to help him up, giving him water and loving attention. As he turns his face upwards, it catches the thin sunlight and seems radiant. "His face was glowing," they say. "Like a grandfather looking at his grandchild." Yoshimoto talks about how this identification of Watanabe with the women of Kuroe-cho is a "feminization" of the Watanabe character. (201) He is not only maternal in wanting to do something for the children, but he is also innocent and in a certain way naive now that he has been reborn.

In one of the great scenes in the movie, a group of thugs--chimpira or yakuza--who wanted to put in a bar the space being reclaimed for the park, try to intimidate Watanabe. The hoodlums confront him and tell him to quit meddling. When Watanabe asks who they are, one of the men tries to get rough and grabs Watanabe by the collar: "Don't you value your life?" Watanabe smiles knowingly and almost slightly menacingly, but with a rare light radiating from his eyes; the tough guy steps back, disturbed, perhaps even frightened by that look in his eyes! He does not know what to make of it. Basically, there is no threatening a man who only has a few months to live.

Through memories, people begin to peice things together. "I can't be angry," Watanabe had told one of them, "I don't have the time." Another recalls how he marveled at the beauty of a sunset, something he had not bothered to admire in thirty years. One is reminded of the line in Stray Dog where Murakami and a woman are lying on a roof looking up at the stars and she says something about how she has forgotten what it is like to look up at the stars; she hasn't really looked up at a night sky for twenty years, a reference to the difficult prewar and wartime years! But, once again, Watanabe has no more time for reveling in natural beauty now.

The wake scene ends with all the drunk employees promising themselves that they be different tomorrow; they resolve to live their lives more like Watanabe. and to serve the people better.

Cut back to the office. Ohno now sits in Watanabe's seat, affixing a seal on paper after paper, just as Watanabe did. A citizen comes with a complaint about sewage water overflowing. Ohno tells his subordinate to direct them to the Public Works section, just as it all began with the Kuroe-cho ladies. Business as usual. Kimura, the sensitive one--but also dubbed "Mr. Gelatin" by Miss Odagiri--stands up, outraged. He looks at everyone and seems on the verge of saying or DOING something. But he does not. So much for all the resolve they expressed in their drunken fervor at the end of the wake. Human beings are what they are; small and fallible in the face of the larger universe which is dark and cold.

A final wipe to a shot of Mr. Kimura on the bridge looking down into the new park, a solitary figure. He stands in the same spot Watanabe had looked up at when he was admiring the sunset. The strains of "Life is Short" play as Kimura walks away, head down.


Despite this rather grim look at human nature. the overall conclusion is life affirming, to be sure, and unforgettable as well. But it is also critical and unflinching in how it portrays the dehumanizing effects of office work, of government bureaucrac, and of all the other humdrum forces that conspire to reduce our lives to colorless days, and deadly dull existences. Rare is the person who wakes up and realizes the preciousness of life, the film tells us. And even these men, who were so moved by Watanabe's example, go right back to living as they were, stuck in the same behavioral ruts. The film speaks to us about how we can live, how we can come alive and actually BE in our life. To be alive, to be aware, to live fully in each precious moment that life brings us. It is very important to know and understand this, but extremely difficult to put into practice in our everyday lives.

The above commentary is mostly by Ron Loftus, but it incorporates a small portion of the review found at: http://www.reelmoviecritic.com/20036q/id1878.htm

[The Reel Movie Critic in this review mistakenly refers to Watanabe as "Ikiru" as though that were a name and not an exhortation about life and living.]


See also reviews here.



The opening sequence of Ikiru clearly establishes Watanabe’s personality and his place in the world. It begins with a shot of an x-ray of Watanabe’s stomach accompanied by a voiceover who explains that Watanabe will soon learn he has stomach cancer, and he will realize that he has led a meaningless life. He describes Watanabe as someone who is “simply passing time without actually living his life.” It’s an unconventional way to start a film because the narrator reveals everything we should expect about the protagonist. This sequence is also important because of the absence of Watanabe’s point-of-view shot. When Toyo starts laughing, Watanabe stops what he’s doing to see what all the commotion is about. Rather than watching this scene through the protagonist’s perspective, the camera moves to the opposite side of the room. Watanabe is “denied the subject position of the look; he is placed in the position of the other’s look (Yoshimoto 196).” This camera angle indicates that Watanabe is the subject of the joke.

After Watanabe leaves the doctor’s office where he learns he has an incurable form of cancer, he walks home in a state of despair. The camera follows him as he walks home absentmindedly. This scene is distinct because it is silent, and it’s only later that we learn he is walking by a very busy street. The silence emphasizes his obsessed state of mind (Prince 104). It also illustrates his despair after receiving such dreadful news. When sound is finally introduced in this scene, the camera begins to move away from Watanabe in the same way it did in the opening sequence. Once again he becomes the subject of other’s observation (Yoshimoto 197).

Watanabe walks home/long shot

In this long shot one can barely see Watanabe among the passing cars. Ultimately, it illustrates how small and inferior he is in relation to the rest of the world.

The silent scene is also important because of what is presented in the frame as Watanabe makes his way down the street. In the background there are a series of identical posters which read “Morinaga Penicillin Ointment.”

Watanabe feels miserable because he’s realized that he hasn’t lived his life meaningfully and authentically. He doesn’t know what to do or who to lean on in this time of crisis; he is essentially trapped. This feeling of entrapment is reflected through the use of cluttered and crowded scenes, especially in the bar scene and the nightlife scenes. In an effort to forget about his condition, Watanabe goes to a bar where he meets a writer. The bar is unusually small which creates a feeling of claustrophobia and intimacy between Watanabe, the writer, and the viewers. One of the more striking elements in this bar is the large ladder that seems to divide the place in half.

It is often believed that walking underneath a ladder is bad luck. The fact that Watanabe sits underneath the ladder reinforces his doomed fate.

The writer feels sympathetic towards Watanabe and decides to invite him on an adventure involving gambling, dancing, and drinking. The feeling of entrapment persists as they make their way from one place to another. For example, there are many prison-like images that occupy most of the frame whenever the focus is on Watanabe. Such images include fences, bars, and other barriers.

The reference to penicillin emphasizes Watanabe’s fatal condition (Yoshimoto 197). At the time, penicillin was considered a miracle drug that saved many Japanese people after WWII from dying of tuberculosis (Yoshimoto 197). Unfortunately, Watanabe cannot be saved by any miracle drugs. The juxtaposition of a miracle drug and Watanabe’s incurable disease also enhances viewers’ sympathy.


Through the use of sound devices and camera techniques such as the tracking shot, the long shot, and the absence of point-of-view shots, Kurosawa reinforces Watanabe’s despair and submissiveness. Kurosawa also presents certain props to reinforce Watanabe’s impending death as well as cluttered settings to emphasize his inability to liberate himself and acquire a sense of purpose.The feeling of entrapment persists as they make their way from one place to another. For example, there are many prison-like images that occupy most of the frame whenever the focus is on Watanabe. Such images include fences, bars, and other barriers.

These barriers suggest that Watanabe is like a prisoner in his own life, and he does not know how to break free and live authentically.

After realizing he’s not going to find meaning by indulging in life’s pleasures or by living through someone else, Watanabe returns to work determined to build a playground; an issue he had previously neglected. Essentially, this scene symbolizes his rebirth. (The “Happy Birthday” tune in the background suggests his symbolic rebirth). It’s also important because it illustrates a shift in the movement of the camera. In this scene, Watanabe sits at his desk and tells two of his employees about his plan to build the playground.

The employees stand on each side of the frame “so that their bodies visually entrap the dying clerk (Prince 109)”, and they tell him that the job should go to the Engineering department. Watanabe, however, proudly says “it’s just the sort of matter that Public Affairs must take the lead on.” For the first time he looks and sounds alive. The camera reacts by approaching Watanabe until he dominates the frame completely. He has shifted from “being a submissive visual element to being a dominant visual element (Prince 109).”

Camera movement/rebirth

Just when we were starting to see a change in Watanabe, the narrator surprises us by announcing his death. From now on, everything we learn about Watanabe is based on tales told by family and co-workers during his funeral. Nevertheless, we had the privilege of watching Watanabe’s transformation and quest for meaning in the first half of the film. With the help of the cinematography and mise-en-scène, Kurosawa is able to articulate Watanabe’s despair as well as his growth.

Written by Lucia Meneses


Akira Kurosawa is the most popular and critically acclaimed Japanese director in the west. He was also the first Japanese director to cross over in the west with his film, "Rashomon." This may be because his work is accessible and it is very influenced by American film in general, and John Ford's works in particular. Some in his native Japan prefer the works of his peers, Yasujiro Ozu or Kenji Mizoguchi because they have more of a "Japanese sensibility."

The highly respected star of Ikiru, Takashi Shimura, was one of Kurosawa's favorite actors. They worked together in "Rashomon," "The Seven Samuraii," "Throne of Blood," "The Hidden Fortress," and virtually all of Kurosawa's early works. Shimura also played the altruistic doctor who martyrs himself in "Godzilla: King of the Monsters."

Ikiru is one of the most accomplished films by one of Japan's best directors. It is mandatory viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in Asian film. It's also a perfect gateway film for international film novices.