in about 100 words or less
Japan 125m, B&W
Director: Akira Kurosawa; Cast: Toshirō Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Kyôko Kagawa, Ganjiro Nakamura, Minoru Chiaki, Bokuzen Hidari
Originally a play written by Maxim Gorky in 1902 which chronicled the plight of the poor before the Russian Revolution, The Lower Depths was adapted by Akira Kurosawa to recount similar conditions during mid 19th century Japan – an era known for its “prosperity”, but not for the deprived occupants of dilapidated tenement house. Filled with despair, the often inebriated characters resign themselves to lives of poverty in this life, and even in the next – sarcastically noting in song that only money can buy their salvation in mocking reference to the comparatively rich lives of Buddhist monks. Despite the bleak and depressing nature of the film, there are numerous comedic moments throughout, including the death of the “actor” that ruins the tenant’s celebration, which make watching bearable (Klaus Ming January 2011).