Director: Akira Kurosawa (1952, Japanese, 143 mins)
Reviews: RottenTomatoes (100%), IMDB (8.4), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.
Watch online: Hulu.
Similar movies: city life, death, illness, old age.
Fabulous movie. One of my all time favorites. The story revolves around Watanabe, a city bureaucrat who has lived a purposeless, listless life for over three decades, pushing paper around. Suddenly, he discovers that he has stomach cancer, so he has about six months to live. He is rattled. He doesn't know what to do. Drink? Spend time with women? Relive his youth? What will give him peace of mind? Is 'khao, piyo, aish karo' the right approach? Or is Leo Tolstoy's short story 'The Three Questions' the right approach? As the movie progresses, Watanabe discovers his answers and comes alive :) Cinematography, acting, story development, the theme - everything is superb.
The structure of the movie is quite unique. There are two distinct parts. In the first part, time moves forward chronologically. In this part, Watanabe discovers that he has stomach cancer and looks for answers. The last scene in the first part is in a restaurant where Watanabe has an intense and honest discussion with a younger female friend on what he should do! He suddenly hits upon an idea. Within seconds of his aha! moment, he starts alighting a staircase while a 'Happy Birthday' song plays in the background.
When the second part of the movie starts, Watanabe has died and people have come to pay their respects. It is at this point that people put together Watanabe's story, discussing how he changed in the last few months of his life. This is a long scene with many flashbacks.