Dodes'ka-den (Dodesukaden) (1970)

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Movie Info

Dodes'ka-Den (aka Dodesukaden) was Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's first project since Red Beard (1965), and his first ever in color. Kurosawa focuses this time on Tokyo slum life. We watch as a variety of unfortunates debase themselves to survive, yet, somehow, emerge with more innate dignity than the so-called "better" people. While it seems inconceivable that Dodes'ka-Den would fail at the box office, fail it did upon its original release. The Japanese distributors hastily pared down the film's 244 minutes to 140 (unfortunately destroying the original negative in the process), but this version also came a cropper. It was the negative reaction to Dodes'ka-Den, which allegedly prompted Kurosawa to attempt suicide. Happily, he survived to reclaim his industry stature with 1976's Dersu Uzala. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Dodes'ka-den (Dodesukaden)

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (2)

It's a film with a rather strange surface, extending even to stylistic mannerisms we don't expect from a director whose best work can be so naturalistic. But underneath there's still the love and regard for characters...

Jul 2, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Dodes'ka-den may be fanciful in its depiction of poverty, but this comes from a desire to humanize people marginalized by society.

Feb 2, 2018 | Full Review…

This was one of Kurosawa's rare films set in modern times - though it has a lyrical, almost fairy tale quality that makes it feel like it could have been plucked out of ancient mythology.

Nov 22, 2010 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

The ultimate effect is the cinematic equivalent of a neon sign: full of flash and color, but never illuminating.

Apr 20, 2010 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…

Everything else feels so hollow and occasionally phony, that its hard not to view the film as one of Kurosawas weakest efforts.

Jul 29, 2009 | Rating: 5/10 | Full Review…

more sober and cynical than sentimental and cathartic, a pre-cursor to the bleak, destitute cosmos of Harmony Korine and Larry Clarke

Apr 13, 2009 | Rating: 3.5/5

Audience Reviews for Dodes'ka-den (Dodesukaden)

This film is likely to divide people into those who love it and those who hate it. On the one hand, you have to admire Kurosawa's unflinching portraits of Tokyo's poor, and his gentle humanity. He presents those at the bottom in a simple way that reflects how all of mankind is in this set of overlapping vignettes, from the alcoholics and rapists to the steadfast and wise. We find ourselves disgusted with revulsion in one scene, and in the next moment empathetic to the pathos of dreams that will never come true. I enjoyed most the story with the young girl exploited by her uncle (and step-father), which had real tension. 'Dodes 'Ka-Den' reminded me of another Kurosawa film, 'The Lower Depths' from 1957, and just as in that film, amidst those living in squalor ('les miserables' if you will), there is a sage who exudes calm and wisdom. In this film, among other things, he helps a man he finds robbing him at night, and teaches another that he really doesn't want to commit suicide. There are Buddhist overtones here; the acceptance of people's weakness, the wisdom of seeing their positive sides (such as when the husband defends his rude wife in front of his colleagues), and the wisdom of compassion, and helping others. On the other hand, the film is bleak, and at 140 minutes, becomes a little tough to sit through. You hate to think of others destroying an artist's vision, but it's hard to fathom the original 244 minutes. One of the more ponderous stories has a man and his son seriously ill from food poisoning, with both of them in garish makeup, and dreaming of a mansion on a hill. Kurosawa overplays it by going back to visions of the mansion several times, and I think it would have been much more powerful had this concept been limited to a single scene. Another story I wasn't fond of had a couple of drunken laborers swapping wives on a whim; while the intent may have been to shock, the entire story falls flat and is dated. Lastly, while there is symbolism in the mentally challenged boy believing he's a tram conductor (from which the title derives), this story is never developed and is also predictable. I see both sides and end up in the middle in my review score. I would not want to watch the film again, and would only recommend it to a Kurosawa fan, which is not a good sign. The film is just a little too understated in its lessons for its length, and too uneven in its story-telling. The use of primary colors and simple sets may have been meant to heighten the feeling of desolation, but it also means a film with few moments of beautiful cinematography. It's sad to me that its poor reception, building on top of the 'Tora! Tora! Tora!' fiasco, was one of the factors that drove Kurosawa to attempt suicide the following year. If anything, it's interesting as a snapshot into the director's life, and his subtle philosophical message.

Antonius Block
Antonius Block

Super Reviewer

½

Watched most of this. Interesting, but couldn't entirely warm to it. A lot happening, yet nothing.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

½

With "Dodes 'Ka-Den," Akira Kurosawa goes against the grain in depicting a shantytown, with only a handful scenes set outside of its boundary, by not going the neorealist route. Instead of muting the color schemes to make the situation look as bleak as possible, the color palette here is as bright as possible to connote a vibrant, if struggling, community. This does not mean he is romanticizing or glamorizing the lives of the denizens, as the tragedies and heartbreaks of their daily lives take center stage in a series of vignettes. And the first scene of "Dodes 'Ka-Den" sets the stage for everything else that follows with a young man(Yoshitaka Zushi) praying with his mother(Kin Sugai) before going off to work. But it is an imaginary job, as he only dreams of driving a trolley(dreams play a huge role in the movie), venturing away from home as the viewer is introduced to his fellow characters. With him, Akira Kurosawa seems to be saying that as long as he is not hurting anyone, where is the harm? This stands for the other characters, too, despite their flaws and handicaps.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

the watching of this film was bitter sweet for me. bitter because this is the last of kurosawa's films that i needed to see, ive watched all 30, and there are no more purely kurosawa films left for me to pursue (although i can go after the few that he worked on in smaller capacities). watching this film was sweet in that i can now emphatically say that kurosawa never made a film that was even average or worse. some werent great but they were all good enough to recommend and watch more than once. as for this film, kurosawa's first color piece is a beautiful one. the film details the lives of many people living in a slum together, and while it never really crosses the stories over it is more a commentary on slum life and human nature. depravity reigns heavy and many of the stories were incredibly touching despite the lack of hope the characters face. the cinematography and art direction were especially impressive, and i was overcome with the reality of how unfortunate it is that this film was so unsuccessful that it drove kurosawa to a suicide attempt, which was ironic considering a character in the film attempts suicide and is tricked by the crafty old man into seeing that life is valuable. a beautiful and worthwhile film.

danny d
danny d

Super Reviewer

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