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High and Low on the Big Screen

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    Apropos of the American celebration of Halloween, the crowd attending Kurosawa’s big screen “High and Low” represented a variety of familiar characters. Yes, the Simpson’s Comic Book Guy showed up, and in the front row was filled with hipster douchebag types, and evidently the word had gotten around to the steam punks as well as the Japanese Student’s Association.

    So, we all settled in, and the presenter was familiar with the film. He could speak to the use of light and shadow, and was interested in some plot line…I forget what now.

    And then it began. The audience was appreciative, attentive. The most atmospheric scenes-the ones I like best of all- are those night club scenes and the “drug alley” scenes and the overdose-the audience was silent.

    Seeing the dance-hall drug-deal scene on the big screen was amazing. I felt enveloped by the steamy, loud, raucous crush in a way impossible to feel through the small screen. It’s very very hard to trace the drug handoff-soemthing that is so transparent on the little screen. But, when the entire image fills your field of vision-and the lights and darks bewilder your eyes, and the sounds assault your ears-suddenly that chugging jungle drum and tinny high notes take you into a place where you may feel a bit unsteady on your feet (and you are sitting!!!) I loved it.

    I like the Black American G.I. stumbling about then ordering a really big drink with his huge black hands indicating how big. To me, this moment is exactly what I think Europeans and Asians think of us-we are huge and bumbling, and potentially dangerous, but basically well-meaning.

    The famous, much-discussed final scene seemed much less contrived as a clever plot problematizing ploy (the 3 Ps) than an intimate wish fulfulment. Would one like to confront one’s antagonist? It might not be very nice. But, wouldn’t you like to know “why”?

    Did our hero get an answer?

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