Monday 20 March 2023

The Current Cinema - Some thoughts on LIVING (Oliver Hermanus, UK, 2022) and a backward glance at IKIRU (Kurosawa Akira, Japan, 1952)

Bill Nighy, Living

I think I’ve only been provoked to write this by the Sight & Sound review I mention below.

As I said on Facebook odd movie if ever there were…  and I went on to say  it made me dig out a copy of Kurosawa's film Ikiru  from 1952 which as I recall from my youth was in a MUFS season in the 60s. Then, I found its near two and half hours hard going... but that was back then... and that was the only time I’ve ever seen it until last night.


In between the two viewings of the old and the new, the Sight & Sound review of the new version came to hand and in big type there is “This is a dangerously audacious undertaking, but Oliver Hermanus and Kazuo Ishiguro have brought it off” according to Philip Kemp. He goes on “Ishiguro’s script closely follows the shape and tone” and concludes “Living offers a rare example of the remake of a masterpiece that can stand with the original.” So much there but I’m not sure I’d ever class a remake of anything as “dangerously audacious”. Maybe a remake of Satantango...


I’m still not all in the group who think the original is a masterpiece. Still not sure that a dull, risk averse, as they say today but whatever, very ordered and dull life that suddenly explodes into commitment and action is totally convincing but that’s the story. All 2 hours and 23 minutes of it.

Shimura Takashi, Ikiru

Kurosawa’s film is set in the then present, and thus in the medical environment of the day. A cancer diagnosis likely meant an inevitable if slow death. “A long illness” the obits used to say. The new version thus decides to take us back to 50s London with all its social repression and paper-filled offices echoing Kurosawa’s original. The new one also decides to be upbeat by introducing a side story romance. The new one is all about getting the colours right, the drabness in the art design of office and home. You can feel superior because things are so much better today.  So we compare and contrast a film about the day and a film which dips, maybe even wallows, in nostalgia.


And as I also said I'm not at all sure that Bill Nighy's one note raspy whisper is that effective beyond the mannerism. It’s a good trope when he plays people who can convey a mountain of information with an ironic gesture, a raised eyebrow. Like he did in the Johnny Worricker trilogy of spy stories written by David Hare. (That’s the other David Hare from the northern hemisphere). As I also also  said I  found Adrian Rawlins (there's a name to conjure with, a Melbourne reference unless you’ve seen Philip Noyce’s Castor and Pollux) to be a much more authentic grump and someone who  got deep into his misanthropic part. 

That's all...

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