Akira Kurosawa. So we ended up watching High and Low, a film I had not previously seen, and one of the few Kurosawa films I’ve watched not set in feudal Japan. Set in the modern day (read: 1960’s Japan), this is a very good movie, though not the movie I expected it to be. Starring the always dependable Toshiro Mifune, the story deals with a kidnapping gone wrong. When someone attempts to kidnap the son of a wealthy businessman (Mifune) but accidentally kidnaps the son of the man’s chauffeur, Mifune must decide whether to pay the ransom for the other man's child, though it will financially destroy his family to do so.
The first hour of the movie takes place almost entirely in one room of Mifune’s house. It’s very intense and a little claustrophobic. I assumed that this was to be he structure of the whole film- a tight little morality play about the value of a life. However, 45 minutes into it, when certain plot points seemed to be resolving themselves, I was baffled as to what the remaining 1 1/2 hours would be. Therein lies the surprise, as the film moves from Mifune’s home and completely shifts focus from his character to a team of detectives searching the city to crack the case and track down the kidnappers. It is a completely different film from this point, though the shift in tone didn’t strike me as forced at all. For those of you who like movies of manhunts, detective stories, and CSI-like shows, you’ll probably dig this movie, because that’s really what the rest of the film is about: people doing the grunt-work to solve a mystery. Good story, good acting, good direction. Check it out.