Akira KurosawaJapan143 minutes1952B&WJapanese
Kurosawa's favourite of his own films, Ikiru chronicles the final days of Watanabe (Takashi Shimura), a paper-pushing salaryman ("drifting through life, barely alive," as the narrator describes him) who, upon learning that he has terminal cancer, sets out to perform one small act that will give his life some meaning. In the face of cynicism, indifference, and cruelty, he sets out to get a playground built in a slum area, doggedly battling the bureaucratic complacency and inertia that had previously defined his existence. Morality and mortality are the twin themes around which Kurosawa fashions his poignant portrait of an "unexamined life" made remarkable by a simple assertion of humanity, creating a magisterial work which pre-eminent Japanese film historian Tadao Sato ranks above even Rashomon, calling it "one of the greatest films of postwar Japan." "Were it the only Kurosawa film ever made, his name would rightly be engraved on film history" (Nick Pinkerton, The Village Voice).