Film Review: High and Low – 7/10

‘I’d rather be told the cruel truth than be fed gentle lies...’

Cinema is for everyone. Everyone should be able to watch any kind of film and enjoy whatever they want. Nobodies opinion is less valid than anyone else’s. That being said, it’s also ok to accept that some films are objectively better than others. I had a much better time watching John Wick than I did Vertigo, but the latter is undoubtedly a better film. As a Film Studies teacher (and, let’s be honest, a massive geek), I feel it is my duty to try and experience all facets of cinema from all cultures and all time periods. Film isn’t like literature. In a way, you can complete film because as medium it’s fairly new in the grand scheme of things. And it is this urge to see everything that led me to the work of legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and his masterpiece Seven Samurai. While I just about clung on to the coattails of that film long enough to enjoy it, High and Low is a different beast entirely…

So, I had a fairly strong grasp of the plot until about the halfway point. Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) is a wealthy executive of a company named National Shoes. Gondo is planning a Kendall Roy style hostile takeover of the company which has resulted in him putting up everything he owns for collateral. On the eve of this takeover, an unnamed criminal kidnaps Shinichi (Masahiko Shimazu), the child of Gondo’s chauffeur, mistakenly believing him to be Gondo’s son. Gondo must decide if he will pay the huge ransom for someone else’s son and give up on his takeover or allow the child to potentially be killed in exchange for his career. And this all happens within the first thirty minutes. A bunch more stuff takes place in the final two hours but I’ll be damned if I can explain what any of it meant…

High and Low is many things. It’s clearly a huge influence on the concept of the crime procedural. It’s wonderfully acted and beautifully shot. But it’s also undoubtedly slow and difficult to follow. I really tried my best with this one, but too often a scene would be taking place in which I didn’t know who the characters were or what they were doing. Now, this is obviously partly down to my monkey brain, but it’s also indicative of how cinema has changed over the years. High and Low is one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time but you couldn’t make a film like this anymore. It’s just too slow. And too difficult.

All that being said, it was certainly interesting to delve back into the world of Kirosawa, and I’m certainly open to returning there one day, but to be honest, I’m looking forward to watching a Marvel film tomorrow instead. And by ‘watching’ I mean letting it wash over me as I lie glassy-eyed and slack-jawed on my sofa surrounded by empty chocolate wrappers.

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