Dodes'ka-den (Dodesukaden) Reviews

  • Antonius B Super Reviewer
    Jul 28, 2017

    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.

    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.

  • Dec 07, 2016

    kurosawa's first color film

    kurosawa's first color film

  • Dec 05, 2016

    An unusual social commentary on the marginalized poor. There were beautiful moments.

    An unusual social commentary on the marginalized poor. There were beautiful moments.

  • Oct 17, 2016

    Makes Sharknado look like a masterpiece of cinematic achievement!

    Makes Sharknado look like a masterpiece of cinematic achievement!

  • Aug 12, 2014

    Dodeskaden tells the story of a group of outcasts living in a shanty town. There are multiple storylines about the villagers and how they cope with the soul crushing poverty. There is mentally handicapped kid who lives with his mother. The boy loves trains and pretends to be a tram conductor. His house's walls are covered with pictures of trains he drew. His mom prays to Buddha. This was Kurosawas first film in color following Red Beard(the last movie he made with Toshiro Mifune). The negative reaction to the film caused him to attempt suicide. The film has the distinction of being one of the few Kurosawa films to take place in the present. There's father and a son who live in a car and dream of building a dream house on a hill, two drunk buddies and their unhappy wives. A group of women that gather around the watering hole to chat and gossip, a older ex salaryman with tourretes. The tone is bleak and pessimistic throughout. I'm convinced Kurosawa never made a bad film in his career. This one was not up to his usual level of brilliance. The film was not a success in his native Japan were the poor and the downtrodden are often seen as a nuisance in a society with a rigid class system. Japanese society's overwhelming conceit with social power maintenance plays a part in this discussion too.

    Dodeskaden tells the story of a group of outcasts living in a shanty town. There are multiple storylines about the villagers and how they cope with the soul crushing poverty. There is mentally handicapped kid who lives with his mother. The boy loves trains and pretends to be a tram conductor. His house's walls are covered with pictures of trains he drew. His mom prays to Buddha. This was Kurosawas first film in color following Red Beard(the last movie he made with Toshiro Mifune). The negative reaction to the film caused him to attempt suicide. The film has the distinction of being one of the few Kurosawa films to take place in the present. There's father and a son who live in a car and dream of building a dream house on a hill, two drunk buddies and their unhappy wives. A group of women that gather around the watering hole to chat and gossip, a older ex salaryman with tourretes. The tone is bleak and pessimistic throughout. I'm convinced Kurosawa never made a bad film in his career. This one was not up to his usual level of brilliance. The film was not a success in his native Japan were the poor and the downtrodden are often seen as a nuisance in a society with a rigid class system. Japanese society's overwhelming conceit with social power maintenance plays a part in this discussion too.

  • Dec 24, 2012

    Very real. It shakes the heart. Conscience to be built up.

    Very real. It shakes the heart. Conscience to be built up.

  • Jul 10, 2012

    Kurosawa's Magnificent Ambersons. I would have loved to see the four hour version.

    Kurosawa's Magnificent Ambersons. I would have loved to see the four hour version.

  • Mar 15, 2012

    Thursday, March 15, 2012 (1970) Dodesukaden (In Japanese with English subtitles) DRAMA Agreed with a critic somehwere that this is an experimental film for Akira Kurosawa and somewhat unusual which revolves several different characters coping living in a pre-war enviroment which were at the time labelled as the slums of Japan. The story begins right after the end of WWII focusing on a harmless unnormal teen filling his time by pretending to be riding on a train as a train conductor. As he's choo- choo chooing, he passes some other people who also are in some difficult times of their own, two drink to escape their problems, a young teenage girl allows herself to be exploited with deliveries by a young teenage boy who feels for the young girl and a couple of underage scroungers trying to provide for their parents as well as more characters particularly one wise old man. The movie which was supposed to be as long as 140 minutes in length, some of the scenes looked like it went on forever since viewers already knew what was going to happen. It does have it's moments but not enough to sustain memorable interest because by wathing this, it looked like Kurosawa had alot to say but as a result of time and money, this was all he could do, meaning that it looked like that it should've been a long running series instead of being just a two film! nominated for an Oscar for est Foreign film! 2.5 out of 4

    Thursday, March 15, 2012 (1970) Dodesukaden (In Japanese with English subtitles) DRAMA Agreed with a critic somehwere that this is an experimental film for Akira Kurosawa and somewhat unusual which revolves several different characters coping living in a pre-war enviroment which were at the time labelled as the slums of Japan. The story begins right after the end of WWII focusing on a harmless unnormal teen filling his time by pretending to be riding on a train as a train conductor. As he's choo- choo chooing, he passes some other people who also are in some difficult times of their own, two drink to escape their problems, a young teenage girl allows herself to be exploited with deliveries by a young teenage boy who feels for the young girl and a couple of underage scroungers trying to provide for their parents as well as more characters particularly one wise old man. The movie which was supposed to be as long as 140 minutes in length, some of the scenes looked like it went on forever since viewers already knew what was going to happen. It does have it's moments but not enough to sustain memorable interest because by wathing this, it looked like Kurosawa had alot to say but as a result of time and money, this was all he could do, meaning that it looked like that it should've been a long running series instead of being just a two film! nominated for an Oscar for est Foreign film! 2.5 out of 4

  • Mar 01, 2012

    He certainly uses colour extremely well in this film for having it be his first colour film. I enjoyed this film, some of the characters/stories were particularly good.

    He certainly uses colour extremely well in this film for having it be his first colour film. I enjoyed this film, some of the characters/stories were particularly good.

  • G S Super Reviewer
    Dec 26, 2011

    Much like a companion piece to Kurosawa's earlier film The Lower Depths. However, there is a greater ensemble aspect in this film, whereas in The Lower Depths the story of Mifune was at the centre. I had read some mixed reviews about this film, but by the end I was convinced that this is a very good film which highlights the existential angst of poor people and also has a humane aspect to it. The multiple story lines are not very interesting at first, which is probably the only criticism of the film. However, about half way through everything falls into place and the film is very interesting to watch. Katsuko's storyline is the most watchable. The scene where she is raped by her adoptive father is very horrifying and unsettling. Kurosawa treads a very fine line throughout this film between sentimentalizing his character's and their plight. At times it feels that he is, at others it feels that he is not. Another criticism is that it was a bit excessive. Highlights of the film include the artwork and the apocalyptic imagery at times. Wonderful experimentation by Kurosawa with set design in this film.

    Much like a companion piece to Kurosawa's earlier film The Lower Depths. However, there is a greater ensemble aspect in this film, whereas in The Lower Depths the story of Mifune was at the centre. I had read some mixed reviews about this film, but by the end I was convinced that this is a very good film which highlights the existential angst of poor people and also has a humane aspect to it. The multiple story lines are not very interesting at first, which is probably the only criticism of the film. However, about half way through everything falls into place and the film is very interesting to watch. Katsuko's storyline is the most watchable. The scene where she is raped by her adoptive father is very horrifying and unsettling. Kurosawa treads a very fine line throughout this film between sentimentalizing his character's and their plight. At times it feels that he is, at others it feels that he is not. Another criticism is that it was a bit excessive. Highlights of the film include the artwork and the apocalyptic imagery at times. Wonderful experimentation by Kurosawa with set design in this film.