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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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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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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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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 Kurosawa's slice of life Sept. 6 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
In what appears to be a movie completely unrelated to many of his earlier works, in which Kurosawa drilled down into human nature (Stray Dog, High and Low, Rashomon), Do-Des-Ka-Den is very much a slice of life, as Kurosawa saw it. Although the viewer is often distracted by the slum environment in which the main characters lived, and even by "do-des-ka-den" (Japanese onomatopoeia for the clicketty-clack of the streetcar wheels), this movie focuses more intensely on the human condition than perhaps any of his other films. In addition, the contrasts between the poverty and the aspirations of the poor was insightful and sensitive. Do-Des-Ka-Den will never have the power or stature of Rashomon or Stray Dog, but in its genre, it will always hold a special place for those who hold Kurusawa's work in high regard.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Affecting, Accesible Story Sept. 9 1998
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
"Dodes Ka-Den" comes from the child's punning imitation of the sound of an electric train clacking over the tracks. Despite the title, the movie is not for kids, mostly due to the difficultly of reading subtitles, but also because the movie deals with death, extreme poverty, and prejudice.
Those who don't enjoy the effort required to decipher Kurosawa period pieces might enjoy this sad, simple story set in the present. The movie is a series of interelated stories about of a group of people who live at the edge of a dump.
Although my life is nothing like theirs, I found the story powerfully affecting. I highly recommend it. It's been five years since I've seen it, but I still remember it well enought to review on the occasion of Kurosawa's death. END
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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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