The Bad Sleep Well (Criterion Collection)
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A young executive hunts down his father's killer in director Akira Kurosawa's scathing The Bad Sleep Well. Continuing his legendary collaboration with actor Toshiro Mifune, Kurosawa combines elements of Hamlet and American film noir to chilling effect in exposing the corrupt boardrooms of postwar corporate Japan.
The Bad Sleep Well tells the story of corruption at the highest levels of Japanese business and its tragic consequences. Though flawed by a tedious introductory sequence and by an ending that seems out of sync with the story, it is a fascinating movie and the middle part is especially exciting.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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After viewing a few more Kurosawa pictures I came upon one entitled 'Throne of Blood'. While I felt it was defiantly one of Kurosawa's stronger pictures, it also seemed to lack the Shakespearian atmosphere that Ran had. I liked it, but felt it was closer to The Seven Samurai as oppose to Ran.
Then, later still, I came upon The Bad Sleep Well. I expected something similar to Throne of Blood, with Kurosawa's 50s-60s atmosphere rather then his 80s-90s atmosphere. Well it turned out that I was wrong. The Bad Sleep Well is easily Kurosawa's most underrated picture, overshadowed by Yojimbo & Sanjuro afterward, and The Hidden Fortress before. The Bad Sleep Well however, does not take the same ambiance as those pictures, rather it shows a flash of Kurosawa's elderly genius from such pictures as Kagemusha and Ran(not to undermine his early genius, its just that the film feels much like one of his later pictures). I won't bother going into detail on the story, as most are already familiar with Shakespeare's Hamlet, and American film-noir; but what I will tell you however, is how well it adapts to the story(s), and that its narrative really flows at a great pace.
The Bad Sleep Well features a great performance by Toshiro Mifune, playing the Hamlet character in a very interesting way, similar in some ways to Laurence Olivier's 1948 version. His performance is what steals the show; although I thought there were some interesting supporting roles, none really stand up to his sheer intensity.Read more ›
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 ›
Most of the "Kurosawa familiy" of actors are here, but Akira Nishimura as Shirai brings a touch of humor (perhaps a perverse kind on the viewer's part) to his torture sequence. Takeshi Kato also gets to express himself more than his role in High and Low allows. Much of the film has a "Western" overtone - down to rich playboy Tatsuo's game of hunting, and the interior of the ruined factory that's reminiscent of dungeons in WWII films...oh boy. You won't forget Nishii's (Mifune in restrained mode) whistling - masterfully used here for characterization and musical counterpoint.
"He's no man! He's an official!"
Most recent customer reviews
I can't believe the other reviewers were reviewing the same dvd. This is a great movie, don't get me wrong. It's Kurasawa, after all. Read morePublished on Feb. 20 2005 by James Field
Unless you are a die-hard Kurosawa fan or an Ed McBain fan, this film is not a great one. Nowhere near the brilliance of other Kurosawa modern-day films like High & Low, Stray Dog... Read morePublished on April 15 2003 by Vinny Mac
I thought-someone told me that-Ed McBain was the writer of the short story,where the movie was based on.That's why I bought it. Read morePublished on March 1 2002 by Amazon Customer
It is unfortunate that Luanne Brown's editorial review of The Bad Sleep Well is so negative. The beginning is no more "tedious" or "flawed" than the ending is... Read morePublished on Nov. 30 2001 by Dax
"The Bad Sleep Well" is a great movie. Imagine taking the major characters of "Hamlet," and casting them in a new plot. Read morePublished on Oct. 31 2001 by Zack Davisson
This represents Kurosawa at the height of his game. Everything 'works' in this movie! The acting as usual is fabulous. The cinematography is great. The music fits perfectly. Read morePublished on Oct. 15 2001
It amazes me how contempory Kurosawa's movies are. The plot and characters in this film are as believable today as they were forty years ago. Boy, does this film run hot and cold! Read morePublished on Aug. 18 2001 by Penny N. Vilela
There really were cover-up suicides by government officials at the time this movie was made. So this movie is also a sort of social commentary; the only such movie by Kurosawa. Read morePublished on June 25 1999 by Hitoshi Noguchi
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