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Movie Capsule : Japanese Thriller 'High And Low'

June 20, 1986

Akira Kurosawa's "High and Low" (1963) , which returns today to the Monica 4-Plex, was reviewed in The Times March 4, 1964, by Kevin Thomas. A precis of his review follows:

Ed McBain's 87th Precinct mystery, "King's Ransom," has provided an ideal starting point for Kurosawa's study of a man who must measure the extent of his responsibility to others.

A Yokohama shoe manufacturer (Toshiro Mifune) has just arranged for a 50-million-yen loan to gain control of his corporation when a kidnaper (Tsutomu Yamazaki) demands the same amount in ransom for his only son. That the kidnaper has taken the son of Mifune's chauffeur by mistake only makes the situation worse--must Mifune face financial ruin to save the life of another man's child?

Structurally, "High and Low," which is remarkable in many ways--the camera work alone could serve as a primer in film technique--is quite a departure for Kurosawa. As soon as Mifune comes to his decision, he literally drops out of the picture until almost the end. Kurosawa then concentrates on the police search for the kidnaper, and the camera itself replaces the familiar, dominating figure of Mifune as it relentlessly probes the crowded slums and amusement areas of Yokohama in sequences reminiscent of "Stray Dog" and "Ikiru." Kurosawa is one of the few great directors to emerge after the end of World War II to keep up with the times. It's exciting to watch Kurosawa, at 53, breaking new ground.

(Kurosawa is still doing it at age 75 in 1986.)

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