24 High and Low

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Orlac
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Re: 24 High and Low

#101 Post by Orlac » Sun Mar 29, 2015 8:34 am

One delight in High & Low is this: during the nightclub scenes, music plays...music that later appeared in Godzilla Vs the Sea Monster when the Big G fights some jet planes!

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ando
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Re: High and Low

#102 Post by ando » Wed Dec 28, 2016 7:15 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:I love the first half -- and find the second half (on average) only so-so (largely because of the fairly ineffective scenes featuring the kidnapper).
I remember sharing that impression on the first few viewings. Revisiting this tonight after about 10 years. Perhaps, like much from Kurosawa, I'll pick up on things missed in my callow youth. :P

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Re: 24 High and Low

#103 Post by ando » Fri Dec 30, 2016 7:20 pm

Well, I certainly did miss - well, half the beauty of this fine film by that early assessment of the second half of High and Low. It is a much more straightforward police procedural as far as the narrative goes but so wonderfully handled, save one aspect that I don'the feel was necessary but is trademark Kurosawa. The depiction of the nightclub and drug den sequences are disturbing, not necessarily because of what they illustrate, but the manner in which they're illustrated bugged me a bit. Do we really need to linger over the female victim of the kidnapper for such lengths? The film's main subject isn't drug addiction, by any stretch, and then to suddenly confront a woman going through withdrawl in such harrowing detail and significant length turns the film briefly into a horror show.

Also, the scene in the nightclub littered (the best way I can describe it) with black (presumably) enlisted military, one of who doesn't seem to have bothered learning Japanese and has to gesticulate a pint of ale for the bartender, creates an impression of decadence, corruption and nascent crime as an influence and springboard for the resourceful kidnapper. The ploy (and commentary) is a rather cheap one. I think these scenes have the opposite effect than K had probably intended, steering the film toward more of a polemic than entertainment. From Drunken Angel on it's rather obvious that K has no taste for Americans in Japan and in this film K's sympathies have certainly been with the police but the scenes (not in the Ed McBain source novel) push the film into an area where K comes off as a bit disingenuous.

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Re: 24 High and Low

#104 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Dec 30, 2016 11:41 pm

Yes - those are the aspects of High and Low's second half that I found very much below the level of the first half and the better parts of the second half.

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Re: 24 High and Low

#105 Post by Vincejansenist » Sat Oct 24, 2020 8:45 pm

Finally getting around to watching this and I wonder too at why the final third is every so slightly unsatisfying.

Certainly it suffers in comparison with the majestic camerawork and staging of the first third, which is as technically a thrill as the drama itself. You almost lose your breath at times at the beauty of some of the shots and the agility of the camera. The plotiness of the middle section serves it well, and while you at times feel a bit too beholden to the brilliance (or at times slowness) of the police inspector the standard unveiling of the drama is satisfying and pays off in all the right ways.
The portrayal of the enlisted Americans or the women in Dope Alley don't bug me on a personal level, I suppose I take them more as expressions of the times that resonated with the audiences differently. But I think there's something about the setting that makes up the "Hell" of the kidnapper that doesn't quite pay-off. The man at the incinerator and indeed the policemen themselves feel of a kind with the kidnapper in terms of class relative to Gondo, but the nightclub and the dope alley don't feel "of" the kidnapper, merely places he drops into to further his plot. Therefore the signifiers around who is the kidnapper and what are his motives feel confused and unclear. Not that his motives must be clear but that Kurosawa himself seems unclear about what we are to make of him.

The kidnapper is a medical intern, and appears in the final scene in a suit. The director who adapted The Lower Depths I think knows how to express the underclasses, and I don't think the kidnapper is of that class. In the final scene, when Gondo asks why the kidnapper refused the priest and requested him instead, the kidnapper says "I couldn't stand you thinking I died crying and afraid". Only the bourgeois is concerned of his reputation. The worker is so embedded within his family and community that he is too known to have a reputation beyond his immediate relationships, and of course the elite does not need reputation among the public, only honor amongst the Gods. The kidnapper's fear is a middle class fear, of one alienated from society (his mother has died), not representative of a class. I suppose then the film shows the kidnapper to be a product of the atomized petite bourgeoise and their untethered (a)morality. However the character of the kdinapper (and his moral drama) is not set in an authentic setting, which I think causes the final third of the film to feel off in some kind of way. It's not High and Low so much as High and Middle, yet we don't quite see the doldrums of our kidnapper's job in the hospital or his alienation from his fellow men or his familial connections. Instead he goes off into other spheres, the dope alley and the club, where he is also alienated, yet it doesn't quite feel like that's the story Kurosawa is telling, who it seems is mostly reveling in their lowness and shock.

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Re: 24 High and Low

#106 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Oct 24, 2020 9:06 pm

I also feel far less enthusiasm for the latter portion of this film. I don't feel that Kurosawa himself had much real understanding of the lives of poor (or even lower middle class people). Rather he only had "concern" -- of the noblesse oblige type. You see this repeatedly in his films (including some I mostly love).

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Re: 24 High and Low

#107 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Oct 24, 2020 10:17 pm

Vincejansenist wrote:Only the bourgeois is concerned of his reputation. The worker is so embedded within his family and community that he is too known to have a reputation beyond his immediate relationships, and of course the elite does not need reputation among the public, only honor amongst the Gods.
I do like your post; I think it has some interesting observations. But this over-generalization both stumbles into untruth (not least because it treats Japan as tho' it were another European country) and also paints so broadly that it loses its subject. Specifically, you seem to've forgotten the moment is not about a man's concern for his reputation in general society, but his concern for what one, specific person thinks, a person with whom he has a rather special relationship. It seems more that he deeply resents being looked down on, and wishes to bring Gondo, a symbol of that, down to his own level. Failing that, he wishes Gondo to know in the end that he, Gondo, still should not make the mistake of looking down on him, that there's nothing about him pathetic or broken, a fact belied by kidnapper's final, desperate screams.

At this point in his career, Kurosawa was not a determinist, be it class or otherwise. For him, individual moral choice was paramount. See for instance Stray Dog, in which the difference between cop and criminal is explicitly not determined by class since the example is a cop and criminal with the precise same background and experience of post-war social ills. In early-to-mid Kurosawa films, emotions like envy, shame, despair, and pride are not class products, tho' they may produce class effects. They're more part of a store of emotions available to all individuals that help determine their relationship to their surroundings.

I mean, you may be right that the kidnapper was from a middle class background, but I wouldn't say your evidence proves it.

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Re: 24 High and Low

#108 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Oct 24, 2020 10:42 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Sat Oct 24, 2020 9:06 pm
I also feel far less enthusiasm for the latter portion of this film. I don't feel that Kurosawa himself had much real understanding of the lives of poor (or even lower middle class people). Rather he only had "concern" -- of the noblesse oblige type. You see this repeatedly in his films (including some I mostly love).
Certainly Kurosawa's handling of the underclasses contrasts poorly with Imamura's. You can see Imamura truly got to know that milieu and was interested in its people. Kurosawa's depictions feel theatrical and performative, more illustrations or canvasses than lived realities (mixing some metaphors here). They seemed impressive when I was in high school and knew less. They were vivid and carnal; you could almost smell and taste them. Now they seem more like expertly packaged received ideas. This would culminate in the total fakery of Dodes'ka den, which has the same relationship to the realities of poverty as Noh has to those of history: symbolic only.

On the other hand, Kurosawa had a surer hand when it came to peasants. The village in Seven Samurai is a far more persuasive reality than any of the slums or back alleys in his social realist movies, and a more complexly rendered one, too.

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Re: 24 High and Low

#109 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Oct 25, 2020 10:46 am

Not just Imamura -- but also most of the great film makers who got their start in the 20s and 30s.

I'm afraid I don't know enough about the realities of peasant life in medieval Japan to judge the authenticity of Seven Samurai -- but I agree it doesn't feel as "manufactured".

I found Dodes'kaden almost unwatchable. Inconceivably awful.

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