Japanese legend Toshiro Mifune plays Koichi Nishi, the seemingly stoic bridegroom who is trying to get ahead by marrying the boss's daughter, Kieko (Kyoko Kagawa), who was crippled as a girl. The bride's brother, in a shocking display, exposes the groom's motives during his wedding toast and threatens his new brother-in-law with death if he disappoints his sister. But Nishi is not who we think. He was born the illegitimate son of the man who Kieko's father, Iwabuchi (Maysayuki Mori), manipulated into suicide. Now Nishi wants revenge for his father's death. As Nishi slowly destroys Iwabuchi's life, he makes the fatal error of falling in love with his wife, who already loves him. Their unconsummated marriage stands between these two like a palpable pillar of stone. But just when we think the stone has been tossed aside by love, Iwabuchi finds out who his son-in-law really is.
Shot in black and white, this film falls just short of being brilliant. Mifune is amazing in his portrayal of this complex man who lets his father's past destroy his own future, and Maysayuki Mori's performance as the evil Iwabuchi is understated but nonetheless chilling. --Luanne Brown
Indeed much of Kurosawa's best work carries a highly distinctive and supremely confident muscular swagger which can be found here in the stirring (and rather addictive) musical motif, the altogether patient and very deliberate pacing, and the seemingly effortless transitions he makes between the tragic and the comic.
*The Bad Sleep Well* often gets described as a variation on *Hamlet*. The key word here is "variation" (rather than "version" or "adaptation"), for while Kurosawa might have begun with Shakespeare, the final products really don't turn out to be in any sense all that similar. There is no Gertrude, no Rozencrantz and Guildenstern, let alone any gravediggers (just to name a few), and there is very little structural resemblance between the stories (inasmuch as *Hamlet* can be said to have any sort of structure). For example, the finale doesn't conclude with virtually *everybody* getting killed--after all, in Kurosawa's framework the bad sleep well (and consequently live happily ever after). Also, Nishi's character is much less ambiguous than Hamlet's; while he may at certain junctures fail to take his plan for revenge the entire way, he doesn't come close to sharing the overall indecision and confusion of Hamlet. But these sorts of differences actually make the complex interrelationship between the two works all the more intriguing and thought-provoking.
The film's story might eventually become "clear as a bell," but it certainly does not start out that way.Read more ›