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aka - Hakuchi
Japan 1951
Directed by
Akira Kurosawa
166 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Idiot

It is difficult to know how to approach this film which was a cherished project of Kurosawa's but was cut by the studio without his consent from the original running time of 266 minutes to 166 minutes. Made after his international hit, Rashomon(1950), it sometimes looks like a Hollywood studio melodrama, sometimes like a Russian silent film, probably both typifying the director’s reference points in transposing the Dostoyevsky novel, mixed with the histrionic stylizations of traditional Japanese theatre which are so evident in his samurai films.

The story is relocated to Sapporo City on Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, after WWII. Dostoyevsky's Prince Myshkin is now a returned soldier, Kameda (Masayuki Mori), whose brain has been addled by the trauma of war. Much of the studio hacking seems to have taken place early in the film as it is initially difficult to understand the unfolding of the story which involves Kameda, his friend Akama (Toshiro Mifune), and their fixation with a beautiful courtesan, Nasu Taeko (Setsuko Hara).

Particularly for a non-Japanese-speaking audience who not only will be unfamiliar with the socio-cultural context but must read the sub-titles and with so much cut-out of the film it is it is not easy to engage with the characters whose relationship develops with dissonant and virtually inexplicable passion, all centered around the beatific presence of the apparently simple-minded Kameda.

Kurosawa fans will find this of interest but taken neat it is likely to be an unconvincing experience for the general viewer.




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