UNDEREMPLOYMENT CINEMA — The Bad Sleep Well (1960)

I went through a Kurosawa phase back in the the mid-1980s and luckily, so did Film Forum. I haven’t seen this movie in about 30 years and I am amazed at how little I remember of it. In the course of about four years I saw this along with Ran, High and LowKagemusha, Ikiru, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, No Regrets for Our Youth, Red Beard, and many, many more. I went out of my way to see these movies. I would drive out to the New Community Cinema in Huntington; I took a day off to see a Japanese triple feature at Film Forum. The Upper West Side had many rep houses back then and I went to as many old movies as possible. When my alma mater Hofstra screened Dersu Uzala, I made the trip out there.

The Bad Sleep Well is about corporate greed and how the people at the top of the org chart get away with things and expect the underlings to quite literally kill themselves if necessary to keep a cover-up covered up. The film begins as a major executive’s disabled daughter is about to marry her father’s assistant, while the Tokyo press corp looks on and tells us of the company’s felonious past while the best man and brother of the bride threaten the groom with an “I’ll kill you if you ever hurt my sister” toast.

This is a revenge story, with a simple motive and a complex mechanism to get the revenge going. During the wedding, a cake in the form of an office building is delivered with a rose stuck in the seventh-floor window where an employee had jumped to his death–a man believed to have taken kick-backs. This is right out of Hamlet, using a device to flush out a suspect.

I don’t want to give the plot twist away, but the real star here is the storyboarding. TohoScope gives this movie a lovely long rectangular tableau and Kurosawa is a master of mise-en-scene. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s subtle but it always works.

Toshiro Mifune plays the groom, Nishi. Takashi Shimura plays Moriyama, a guilty corporate stooge. These two actors were fixtures at Toho Studios for years. Shimura is equally known for these Kurosawa movies as he is for his Godzilla movies.



Post a comment.