`To Live' reveals another Kurosawa

FILM

Film Column

December 26, 2003|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

As anyone who's followed the Akira Kurosawa series at the Charles should know by now, this master Japanese filmmaker has too long been pegged as an artist of action and maker of epics. The final entry in the series - a restoration of Kurosawa's 1952 masterpiece Ikiru, known in English as To Live - should clinch the revival of his original reputation, not merely as a movie master but also as a virtuoso humanist. Here he uses multiple film and narrative techniques to dramatize, without tears, the plight of a dying city-government bureaucrat who looks for shreds of meaning in his family and profession.

Kurosawa achieves the piercing emotions and poetry of the Italian neorealists by opposite means. He doesn't make the camera disappear. Instead, from the first view of the hero's X-rays, he deploys his camera so vividly, sharply and unerringly that it seems to take X-rays of the spirit. In Takashi Shimura, Kurosawa found an actor who could stand up to this close inspection. The crowning image of the bureaucrat swinging in a city park that he has finally pushed into existence, crooning a beloved song about life's brevity as the snow falls, comes as close as any big-screen moment to a Joycean epiphany.

Ikiru screens tomorrow at noon and Thursday at 9 p.m., For more details go to www. thecharles.com or call 410- 727-FILM.

An AFI Christmas

Bob Clark's A Christmas Story, based on parts of Jean Shepherd's novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, is one of those movies that rises above, falls beneath or careens to the side of criticism. It was advertised as "A Tribute to the Original, Traditional, One-Hundred-Percent, Red-Blooded, Two-Fisted, All-American Christmas ..." All those who revel in the 1940s boy hero's pursuit of a Red Ryder BB gun love it for being just that.

It receives its last screening of the season at AFI Silver today at 4:15 p.m. Check www.AFI .com/Silver for updates; call 301-495-6720 for general information or 301-495-6700 for pre-recorded program information. Tickets: $8.50 for general admission, $7.50 for AFI members, students and seniors.

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