Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Bad Sleep Well

TCM is spending Monday morning and afternoon in Japan with a mix of Hollywood films about Japan, and actual Japanese films. Among the movies in the latter category is The Bad Sleep Well at 9:45 AM.

This movie starts off with a bang. The opening sequence is of the wedding of Yoshiko Iwabuchi (Kyoko Kagawa), the daughter of a wealthy industrialist/head of one of those large Japanese conglomerates (Masayuki Mori). She's getting maried to Koichi Nishi (Toshiro Mifune), who is the executive assitant to Iwabuchi. It's a big wedding, and because of the nature of the man giving the bride away, it's a wedding that's attracted the elite of the Japanese business world as well as the equivalent of the tabloid press of the day. It all goes on like an elaborate show, but then the most elaborate part of all comes out: the wedding cake. And here is where the bang comes in. It's not a traditional wedding cake, but a cake shaped in the form of the corporate headquarters. And one of the windows of this corporate headquarters is very clearly marked, as it's the window from which a former mid-level type at the corporation have jumped to his death. That's something every bride wants at her wedding!

So there's a corruption investigation. There had been one in the past, which resulted in the police detective heading the investigation committing suicide, and thus the investigation having to be closed for lack of evidence. And now there are more suicides surrounding the current investigation. Nishi is able to stop one of the attempted suicides at which point he reveals a truth: his father was the detective who had conducted the old investigation. Not only that, but Nishi has good reason to believe that the suicides that have been going on are in fact not suicides, but murders! Nishi is out to get the evidence that will prove all of this, but of course that's not going to be easy. Especially because he's beginning to fall in love with Yoshiko.

Meanwhile, Yoshiko's brother Tatsuo learns what's going on and that Nishi pretty much married his sister under false pretenses. Tatsuo tries to shoot Nishi, but Nishi is able to escape. However, Dad also begins to figure out what's been going on, and pressures Yoshiko to reveal where her husband is hiding....

The Bad Sleep Well is an interesting movie, although it's also one I'd call difficult. Mostly, that's because you really have to pay attention to keep track of exactly what's going on. Perhaps that's because I don't know any Japanese; it might be a lot easier for a native speaker to follow the action. But it's also in part because the movie goes on and on and on, running nearly two and a half hours. It's probably a bit too long. Still, it's more than worth a watch. Akira Kurosawa directed, and I've always been a bigger fan of his contemporary movies than the samurai-era films he made. That having been said, if I were going to recommend a Kurosawa movie for somebody who hasn't seen any, I'd start not with The Bad Sleep Well, but something a lot simpler and more straightforward like One Wonderful Sunday.

The Bad Sleep Well is on DVD, but it's a Criterion Collection release, so it's a bit pricey.

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