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Archive for January 4th, 2013

thebadsleepwell

The movie begins with a wedding ceremony between Koichi Nishi (the secretary for the vice president of a company called Public Corp) and Yoshiko, the VP’s daughter who’s lame after an accident that happened when she was a child thanks in part to her brother. Soon after at the wedding reception, a gaggle of newspaper reporters are hanging around the place like vultures waiting for a scoop of some sort. There are rumours of dodgy dealings going on between Public Corp and Dairyu Construction that the newspapers are keen to exploit on. They also think that Nishi is marrying Yoshiko to only climb up the ladder in the company. The wedding reception takes a turn for the worse for some members of Public Corp when the wedding cake arrives. The large cake in the shape of the Public Corp office building has a red rose sticking out of one of the upstairs window. The rose is pointing to a spot in which one of the company’s employees jumped from a window and committed suicide 5 years previously. Two police detectives arrive on the scene and Wada, one of the people involved with contracts is taken away by them for questioning about fraud and embezzlement. He is only one of many people that are questioned. With nobody saying anything out of loyalty to their company, the police have nothing to charge Public Corp. However, there are a couple of suicides and in each case they have been goaded into doing so by Public Corp’s VP president Iwabuchi and his sidekick Miyamoto. Wada is one such man that is about to obey his boss’ orders by throwing himself off a smouldering mountain (looks very much like Owakudani – the volcanic valley near Hakone) when he is stopped by none other than Koichi Nishi, Iwabuchi’s secretary. Wada is confused as to why Nishi is saving him. Nishi though is not the man he has told everybody he claims to be. He has taken another man’s identity, managed to get a great job and married the VP’s daughter to get inside the corrupt company as a tool for his revenge. It was his father Furuya that killed himself 5 years ago and Nishi is fuelled by rage to set things right. His plan is put into motion when Wada is announced to be dead (even though he isn’t) and he is taken to his own funeral where Nishi explains to him how bad to the core his superiors have been over the years. He wants to use Wada as a ghost to scare those who were involved in his father’s death and bring them to justice. Nishi doesn’t really care if his actions will land him in jail. How far is he willing to go with his revenge?

In this underrated masterpiece by Akira Kurosawa , the director goes for the jugular with this story in attacking corporate corruption that was rife in Japan during the late 50’s. It’s quite a brilliant and compelling tale and although it runs for 2 hrs and 30 mins, once you get sucked into the plot it’s hard to turn away from the screen. This movie which has some film noir elements to it has been compared to Shakespeare’s Hamlet by many people. From the beginning with the wedding of Nishi and Yoshiki, Kurosawa directs the movie extraordinary well from the way he ramps up the tension and the feelings of unease amongst some of the Public Corp’s management at the wedding reception. The journalists that are waiting patiently for a story to make the headlines of their newspapers talk about the scandal around Public Corp and give sarcastic comments as they listen to the speeches that some of the guests make to the bride and groom whilst giving the viewer some background information about them. Naturally there are some gasps from everybody when the bride’s brother says he will kill Nishi if he makes her unhappy. It culminates with the wedding cake scene before Kurosawa shows us a montage of newspaper headlines about the scandal. It is only after this that the main revenge plot is unveiled. I enjoyed seeing how Nishi went about in trying to bring down his boss and his cronies. It contains many great set-pieces and he might have succeeded had he not been so soft. As the suspense grows during the movie I was left on the edge of my seat in wondering whether there could actually be a chance in Nishi succeeding in his mission. It is such a gripping and exciting movie which is so well-written and it culminates in a dramatic conclusion. The cinematography is first rate with one such example being when the character of Shirai is walking along a road at night and sees the ‘ghost’ of Wada. The use of lighting and shadows by Kurosawa in these scenes is fantastic.

The Bad Sleep Well screenshot

Toshiro Mifune excels as Nishi who hides behind thick rimmed glasses with quite a reserved personality when the viewer first sees him. He is unrelenting in his quest to take down those responsible for his father’s death even though their relationship before his death was a bit complex. He comes across as being cold and at times a merciless person in order to achieve his aims but the viewer never loses their sympathy for him. Even when he is at his most brutal, there is some good inside him and the fact that he slowly starts to really fall in love with Yoshiko even though he was only using her for his plans shows his tender side. His true character is only revealed when he’s in the company of a childhood friend that’s helping him out with his plans as he smiles and reminisces about the past. Nishi’s masterplan goes smoothly at first but then as Iwabuchi and Miyamoto discover his real identity Nishi is unaware of the power that the company wields in trying to destroy him. It makes his fate at the end all the more bleak and depressing. It would be rather difficult for one man to bring a large company down. One should not forget the stellar acting by the rest of the cast. The standout actor is Masayuki Mori as the chief manipulator Iwabuchi. One of the final scenes of the movie which has Iwabuchi shedding crocodile tears as he explains to the press his sincere sorrow about Nishi’s death shows the depths of his villainry and makes him even more despicable. Ko Nishimura as Shirai who eventually goes insane and is thrown into a mental asylum also gives a terrific performance.

Though The Bad Sleep Well has been overshadowed by other Kurosawa classics, this movie about revenge on a grand scale which ends in tragedy should not be ignored. It really is an amazing movie which comes highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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