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Today was High and Low, the kids first taste of Kurosawa and Japanese cinema. Or at least their first taste that didn’t involve animation or men in large rubber monster suits.

One of my teaching assistants, Mike, handled the presentation duties and the kids liked it, or at least 98% of them did. It is a wonderful film. I’m not sure how many people have seen it before. The source material for the movie is from an Ed McBain 87th Precinct novel called King’s Ransom.

It is definitely worth watching and it is almost two movies in one. The first half of the film takes place in primarily one room in the mansion of Kingo Gondo, a wealthy shoe manufacturing executive. Gondo is played by Kurosawa mainstay Toshiro Mifune. Gondo’s son plays with his chauffeur’s son and a kidnapper takes the wrong child. Still, the kidnapper demands Gondo pays a ransom to save the life of his chauffeur’s son. The first hour or so are extremely claustrophobic as Gondo paces like a caged animal in his house surrounded by the police and family members. The second have is a police procedural following all the various leads the police are running down.

Kurosawa was a painter before he was a director and every frame of this film is carefully composed and exquisitely structured. Definitely give it a viewing if you get a chance. We were watching the Criterion Blu-Ray edition and the picture and sound were top-notch.

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