Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
There is a scene in Kurosawa’s High and Low where police emerge from the house of a man, played by Toshiro Mifune (Red Beard), whose lost kidnapping ransom, paid to recover the son of his chauffeur, has caused his total financial ruin. Yet there he is, calmly mowing his lawn with his power mower, while his life collapses around him. He seems to be enjoying himself. Life goes on.
High and Low overflows with sparkling cinematic moments like this. Some are just the celebration of the mundane. Others are high drama. All are masterfully photographed in what at one level is a police procedural, while at another level it is a contemplation of social contrasts.
The editing and pacing are masterful. There is one long sequence in a police station where, one after the other, teams of detectives rise in turn to give a brief summary of the status of each minute detail in the kidnapping case. One team talks about the kidnapping car. Another discusses the status of investigation into old grudges. Still another describes events surrounding an important phone call. Their dutiful testimony is interwoven with filmed snippets of their investigation into sometimes minute details. In a few short minutes Kurosawa has given us an extraordinarily detailed briefing, and we’re now ready to move along. It’s careful, precise — and fascinating.
It’s probaby trite to say so, but Kurosawa in High and Low elevates what might have been a hackneyed detective story into a work of cinematic art. He does it without sacrificing story telling or excitement. Quite an impressive achievement, in my opinion.
Review copyright (c) 2005 by Dennis D. McDonald