Even though Akira Kurosawa, the one and only Emperor of Cinema, is mostly known for his Jidaigeki, or period, films (Let's face it, most film buffs call them samurai movies), some of his best work was in contemporary dramas. For proof, look no further than his masterpiece Ikiru, a heartbreaking, invigorating, soulful, and incredibly touching study on the value of a life. Kurosawa's somber yet uplifting tale of a boring bureaucratic clerk (Takashi Shimura creating perhaps the best male performance in film history) coming to terms with his mortality after finding out he has stomach cancer is one of the most important films ever made about how each of us can find meaning and purpose in our lives, even if it feels like it's too late to change.
Instead of writing a long review of the film, I urge you to listen to an episode of our podcast, Over/Under Movies, where I defend Ikiru as a vastly underrated masterwork. Our Ikiru discussion begins at the 32-minute mark, and after that, you can listen to pretty much all I have to say about the film. You can find the episode below the review and listen to it by clicking on the embedded player.
Criterion's Blu-ray release of Ikiru is a direct port of their earlier 2-DVD release. Of course the biggest reason to buy this Blu-ray, even if you own the DVD, is the privilege of watching this great film in 1080p resolution, presented via a new 4K transfer. As far as clarity goes, this HD transfer looks the same as the DVD, but the definition, depth, and contrast are of course greatly improved. The lossless mono track also improves greatly on the lossy track from the DVD release.
There aren't any new extras that weren't found on the 2-DVD release, and there doesn't need to be any. A Message From Akira Kurosawa is an essential feature-length documentary on the legend's life, and an expansive documentary specifically about Ikiru gives all the information fans could want and more. Stephen Prince's commentary is also vital to understanding this great film. Ikiru is a must-own for every film buff. Whether or not you know much about Kurosawa, is a huge fan but don't know much about Ikiru, or love Ikiru and already own the DVD set, the purchase of this Blu-ray is highly recommended.
Ikiru will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 24.