Dodes’ka-den (1970)

What struck me the most about this was the curious game of duality between misery and perseverance that encompasses the entire film. It’s embedded everywhere, in one form or another, from the mentally handicapped boy who goes through life living inside his personal dream world where he’s a tram conductor and repeats the titular onomatopoeia (referring to the clickety-clak noise that trams make as they move) while he rides his make belief tram on its the  daily route through the landfills roads, to the beggar and his son who live are trapped in utter poverty and seem to find solace in a delusional  daily activity of fantasizing and planning a luxurious dream house house for themselves that they are going to build.

It’s a very curious, and without a doubt, ambitious movie and feels in many ways like a natural next point in Kurosawa’s oeuvre.  I can’t lie and say that I was overwhelmed and put in awe by it, but it certainly offers what you can call a true cinematic experience: it’s provocative, insightful, at times horrific and humorous while delivering an anthology story that somehow feels more singular than it does fragmented. This is perhaps due to the way the movie actually seems to be more of a larger symbolic story of the dump itself, rather than a mere collection of individual tales of its residents. It deals with many very interesting and complex subjects and manages to do it with very easy to approach manner. In many ways, it’s a film that does not immediately win you over, and you may even walk from it with very apathetic mood, but with time and retrospect you will find yourself appreciating it more, which could very well explain why at the time of its release it was such a financial failure.


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