The Lower Depths
Kurosawa's last Academy screen picture. In 1957, Japan started producing CinemaScope films and Kurosawa jumped on the bandwagon right away. Please mark that all these earlier movies have been made on 1:1.33 Academy screen aspect ratio; don't mask them off for the "video wide-screen" 1:1.8 ratio or you'll lose top and bottom of the screen.
Having said that, on to the film. I have one problem with it, which is that it was based on a book by Maxim Gorky, an obnoxious USSR communist party follower. If you've read what Alexander Solzhenitsyn has to say about him in The Gulag Archipelago you'll understand. I was also rather surprised Kurosawa selected this as a subject; after all, Stalin had been dead with Khrushchev in power for several years already and I just feel Kurosawa should have known better.
Well, maybe he did, because he turned what has been called "one of the greatest theater sob-stories" into what I feel is a very funny and entertaining film; as Wodehouse/Kaufman say in Barmy in Wonderlandkid the pants of this one. You have to enjoy this as a comedy. It can more or less be summed up in one of the last linesIt was all the actor's fault. Right. Isn't it (almost) always like that in a movie production? A number of social drop-outs is collected like flotsam in one of those forgotten corners between three highways or railroads which you can find in many cities (the choice of location is a masterstroke in itself), where they are effectively cut off from the rest of the world. They have their little setbacks; a bit like Dodesukaden.
Produced by Toho
137 minutes, B/W, Academy screen
Credits: Cast: producer
based on a play by
Sutekichi, the thief
Osugi, the landlady
Rokubei, her husband
Okayo, her sister
Kahei, the priest
Tomekichi, the tinker
Asa, his wife
Osen, the prostitute
Yoshisaburo, the gambler
The Lower Depths Adapted from a play by Maxim Gorky, Akira Kurosawa's dark seriocomedy follows the adventures of a boarding home's odd residents, especially the love triangle that develops between the landlady, her sister, and a thieving boarder. Toshiro Mifune, Isuzu Yamada star. In Japanese with English subtitles. VHS
The Lower Depths (Donzoko) (1957)
The Lower Depths (Les Bas-fonds) (1936)
Maxim Gorky's play served as the basis for two films from master directors on opposite ends of the globe.
First, Akira Kurosawa's dark seriocomedy "Donzoko" follows the adventures of a boarding home's odd residents, especially the love triangle that develops between the married landlady, her sister, and a thieving boarder. Toshiro Mifune, Isuzu Yamada star.
Next, a setting move from Moscow to Paris was one of several changes made in Jean Renoir's earlier version, "Les Bas-fonds." Louis Jouvet plays a financially ruined nobleman who learns about life from a street thief in the city slums. Jean Gabin, Jany Holt, Suzy Prim also star. AKA: "Underground."
Standard; Soundtracks: Japanese mono/French mono; Subtitles: English. Two movies.
DVD 125 min./85 min.
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