(1960) dir. Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa is one of the big names in cinema, very deservedly so. I had a professor at University who was highly critical of the archetypes that he created of the samurais and the tone of Japanese-ness that became so broadly accepted as “truth” as Kurosawa’s films were the primary Japanese cultural export that was broadly known. I think that is what he didn’t like. I don’t know.
I have to say that his mastery at cinema is profound and indisputable, like many other of the major figures in cinema. So many aspects of The Bad Sleep Well demonstrate this throughout, from his framing of shots and construction of narrative to his approach to genre and literature. Even saying that, The Bad Sleep Well, as excellent as it is (and I do think it is excellent), I wouldn’t necessarily put it up there with his greatest achievements. Still, it’s pretty fucking amazing, an adaptation of Hamlet set in late-1950’s corporate Japan, criticizing blind dedication, ruthless greed, corporate culture, and suicide as an honor of Japanese belief.
A few years ago,…let’s say 10 or more, I saw Stray Dog (1949) and High and Low (1963) and was utterly amazed. Kurosawa is so well-known for his samurai pictures that his contemporary films seemed a total surprise, dealing with genre and adaptations from European and American sources into utterly Japanese narratives. His picture of Japan as a place of change, an analysis of the present, is telling and beautifully executed. The Bad Sleep Well is somewhat of a mystery, somewhat of a noir, somewhat of a lot of things. But what I would say it is entirely is another testament to the excellence of Kurosawa’s direction and art. Really cool.