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Dodes Ka-Den (The Criterion Collection)

Yoshitaka Zushi , Kin Sugai , Akira Kurosawa    Unrated   DVD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Made in 1970, this film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1972. This is Kurosawa's first color film, and there seems to be an almost psychedelic overlay to his production palette. The story revolves around a collection of characters held together only by the frayed thread of poverty. Rokkuchan (Yoshitaka Zushi), a teenager with the mind of a boy, is obsessed with trolley cars. He draws them from every angle in vivid colors. His despondent mother (Kin Sugai) hangs them lovingly on the walls and windows of their simple home.

Every morning Rokkuchan goes out to his imaginary trolley car and makes his way through the surrounding slums. His neighbors include a humble man with a terrible limp and an unforgiving wife, two couples who color-coordinate their husband-swapping, and a sad derelict man with an adoring but doomed little boy. During the day, father and son pass the time building a dream house in their minds. At night they sleep in an abandoned car.

While visually compelling, the film lacks connection between the characters, which leaves the viewer feeling disjointed and somehow lessens the emotional impact of these tragic stories. But as a slice-of-life look at how people maintain simple dignities in the face of great hardship, it is definitely a film worth seeing. --Luanne Brown

Product Description

By turns tragic and transcendent, Akira Kurosawas Dodeska-den follows the daily lives of a group of people barely scraping by in a slum on the outskirts of Tokyo. Yet as desperate as their circumstances are, each of them the homeless father and son envisioning their dream house; the young woman abused by her uncle; the boy who imagines himself a trolley conductor finds reasons to carry on. Kurosawas unforgettable film was made at a tumultuous moment in his life. And all of his hopes, fears, and artistic passion are on fervent display in this, his gloriously shot first color film.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
If I were living like any of the people of the Tokyo slums in Akira Kurosawa's first colour film, Dodes'ka-den, like them, I'd be living in illusion and imagination to counter the squalid conditions. Living for them, but in my case, it'd be drowning. That's the premise of this movie, a testament to the human spirit and how it keeps on going despite adversity.
There's no plot in this film, as it tells of the various people living in the slums, some in coloured tin corrugated roofs, others in dirty, dingy travesties of huts, and in the case of an oddball boy who pretends he's a streetcar conductor and spends all day shuffling to who knows where. He goes through the motions, putting on his cap, pushing the buttons, pulling levers, and muttering the words "Dodes'ka-den." Which leads to the title. It's a Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound a train makes on the tracks. Roughly translated, it's like clackety-clack. The smaller kids who see him throw pebbles at him and cry out "trolley crazy."
My favourite characters are the bedraggled derelict and his young son who live in a beaten up, wheelless VW bug. The son goes out at night and gets scraps from a friendly sushi shop man. During the day, the father discusses their dream house, and we see his designs, from the gate, fence, and house, come alive, with dramatic sounds and colour. He must have been an architect or designer, and he escapes his squalid condition by envisioning a dreamhouse. There's a vivid example of colour cinematography at work, when standing under glaring yellow sky, we see the eerie blue light cast on him and his son, ill from food poisoning.
The drunken buddies who swap wives are two of the most colourful, but there's an interesting theme.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the beauty inside Feb. 27 2002
By shalamo
Format:VHS Tape
Dodeskaden portrays the beauty inside the struggle and pain of human existence.The images will never leave me. This and Itami's " Tampopo " are my all time Japanese cinema favorites.
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4.0 out of 5 stars and one fourth of a star. June 27 2001
Format:VHS Tape
Along with the Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen, this is one of my favorite "faith" movies of all time. Dont get me wrong, Im not even attempting to compare it to Baron...just to say they brought about similar changes in my teenage years, a time when I was contemplating suicide. Cant be that dramatic anymore.This and Mishima really helped just for that day...watching it at the library. Its too bad Mishima is so much money, but owning Dodes Ka-Den is enough. Do yourself a favor and buy it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars And now for something really different... Jan. 6 2001
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Kurosawa's first color film originally came in at 244 minutes and the studio executives were aghast. They quickly cut it to about 140 minutes and reportedly destroyed the original negative in so doing. This along with the lack of public and critical acceptance at the time drove the great genius to a suicide attempt. In it's original form it could well have been Kurosawa's great masterpiece. As it is, it's a little quixotic and hard to follow, but a stunning piece of movie making. The children's train drawings shown during the prayer scenes were collected by Kurosawa from children all over Japan for this film. It is pointless to recap the story, but I just say to you see it and you'll never forget it. Perhaps Criterion could find the orignal version when it comes out on DVD, let's hope so!
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars And now for something really different... Jan. 6 2001
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Kurosawa's first color film originally came in at 244 minutes and the studio executives were aghast. They quickly cut it to about 140 minutes and reportedly destroyed the original negative in so doing. This along with the lack of public and critical acceptance at the time drove the great genius to a suicide attempt. In it's original form it could well have been Kurosawa's great masterpiece. As it is, it's a little quixotic and hard to follow, but a stunning piece of movie making. The children's train drawings shown during the prayer scenes were collected by Kurosawa from children all over Japan for this film. It is pointless to recap the story, but I just say to you see it and you'll never forget it. Perhaps Criterion could find the orignal version when it comes out on DVD, let's hope so!
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