High and Low

Akira Kurosawa
Film // August 18, 2016

In High and Low, the phone is the center of attention. Toshiro Mifune plays Kingo Gondo, a wealthy executive awaiting an important call from a kidnapper. He’s flanked by a compassionate wife, a pragmatic business associate, a desperate victim, and an empathetic police force.

During a slow pan across the living room, each character makes their cases–and rebuttals–on the best course of action. Kurosawa is known to be grand and showy, but in these contained moments, he propels the film forward through precise movement. A busy background where a grieving father is coming to terms with reality or busy officers are contemplating next steps are decoration for the pacing bodies that dominate the foreground; Gondo caught between pride and charity, or his associate deliberating between the personal and the professional. It’s a busy scene played with clarity. Even as the film evolves to a more standard police procedural, High and Low maintains its momentum. Whether it was developing sympathy in Stray Dog, finding acceptance with Ikiru, or here with the desperation depicted by High and Low, Kurosawa demonstrates that some conflicts take place off the battlefield and without a samurai sword.