Criterion

For my birthday, T got me a three-month subscription to the Criterion Collection’s streaming service. Why three months, you ask? As she pointed out, it’s a time frame short enough to motivate us to watch as many movies as possible to get our money’s worth. Plus, for a teacher, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the most relaxing time of the year. I expect to be glutted with film by the end of February.

Last night, we watched Kurosawa’s High and Low, a police procedural from 1963. I’m not planning to review each Criterion movie we watch, but here are a few notes about the film.

  • Along with obvious “high vs. low” imagery, Kurosawa plays with light and darkness. Gondo’s living room is flooded with white light, which makes him vulnerable. He must close the curtains to be safe. His wardrobe also goes from white to dark over the course of the movie.
  • T commented on how Westernized everything in 1960s Japan was. The characters wear business suits. The children pretend to be cowboys. There’s an extended scene in a frenetic dance club populated by Americans (where, according to IMDb, Tarantino got his inspiration for the famous scene in Pulp Fiction). Mrs. Gondo goes back and forth between wearing a traditional kimono and wearing the garb of an American housewife.
  • In American crime dramas, the detective almost always works alone, sometimes outside the bounds of the law. In High and Low (as in Memories of Murder, which I also watched recently), the detective is surrounded by a team. This is extremely obvious in the scenes where the members of the team report on their progress. The whole frame is packed with people.
  • Kurosawa’s long takes let the actors make the most of the time between cuts. ‘Twas delightful.

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