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Dodes 'Ka-Den

1970 2h 20m Drama List
73% Tomatometer 11 Reviews 77% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings
A group of impoverished misfits inhabiting a Japanese landfill have experiences that are alternately joyful and disheartening. Young, disabled Roku-chan (Yoshitaka Zushi) spends his days in a fantasy world where he is the captain of an imaginary train, while his mother, Okuni (Kin Sugai), remains in constant prayer, rarely venturing out of her shanty. A homeless man and his child lovingly envision every detail of the home they wish they had money to build, and a mute girl has a tragic encounter. Read More Read Less
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Dodes 'Ka-Den

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Critics Reviews

View All (11) Critics Reviews
Roger Ebert Chicago Sun-Times It's a film with a rather strange surface, extending even to stylistic mannerisms we don't expect from a director whose best work can be so naturalistic. But underneath there's still the love and regard for characters... Rated: 3/4 Jul 3, 2018 Full Review Ben Sachs Chicago Reader Dodes'ka-den may be fanciful in its depiction of poverty, but this comes from a desire to humanize people marginalized by society. Feb 2, 2018 Full Review Eric Henderson Slant Magazine Dodes'ka-den's forgotten souls enact their tribulations only in brief, impressionistic strokes, as apt to lapse into candy-coated reverie as they are to stare down the demons of fiscal and moral poverty. Rated: 2.5/4 Mar 17, 2009 Full Review Daniel Barnes Dare Daniel It was his long-awaited return after a string of high-profile projects withered on the vine, and also his first film shot in color. A sense of release is evident from the opening shots, as Kurosawa splashes colors across the screen like an action painter. Rated: 3.5/5 Mar 25, 2020 Full Review Lloyd Steele Los Angeles Free Press That so good a film is left intact bears witness to the success of the original. Jan 10, 2020 Full Review Christopher Lloyd Sarasota Herald-Tribune This was one of Kurosawa's rare films set in modern times - though it has a lyrical, almost fairy tale quality that makes it feel like it could have been plucked out of ancient mythology. Rated: 4.5/5 Nov 22, 2010 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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geoffrey k we're all just mentally-challenged children admiring an imaginary train. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/07/24 Full Review Raymond V The first time Kurosawa used color in a film and it is just eye-popping. It's also one of his most intimate films in the later years examining the underbelly of the inner-city. The father/son story is just heartbreaking to watch, and the swinging nature of some relationships is pure slapstick. An under-appreciated film by a master film-maker. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 07/13/23 Full Review Audience Member This is one of the few Kurosawa movies which I never got around to watching. It was a really different and special visual fantasy from Kurosawa. I couldnt find the usual depth and sanity of a Kurosawa movie.....maybe because the movie was much deeper than what I could actually comprehend Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/18/23 Full Review william d It took a long time before I got interested in the goings on here, but eventually I did. If you stick it out I think you eventually will too. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member There are 2 or 3 films rife with wholesomeness and promise within Kurosawa's first color feature. The problem is this film is messy and runs for at least 30 minutes too long. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 02/20/23 Full Review Audience Member This film is likely to divide people into those who love it and those who hate it. On the one hand, you have to admire Kurosawa's unflinching portraits of Tokyo's poor, and his gentle humanity. He presents those at the bottom in a simple way that reflects how all of mankind is in this set of overlapping vignettes, from the alcoholics and rapists to the steadfast and wise. We find ourselves disgusted with revulsion in one scene, and in the next moment empathetic to the pathos of dreams that will never come true. I enjoyed most the story with the young girl exploited by her uncle (and step-father), which had real tension. 'Dodes 'Ka-Den' reminded me of another Kurosawa film, 'The Lower Depths' from 1957, and just as in that film, amidst those living in squalor ('les miserables' if you will), there is a sage who exudes calm and wisdom. In this film, among other things, he helps a man he finds robbing him at night, and teaches another that he really doesn't want to commit suicide. There are Buddhist overtones here; the acceptance of people's weakness, the wisdom of seeing their positive sides (such as when the husband defends his rude wife in front of his colleagues), and the wisdom of compassion, and helping others. On the other hand, the film is bleak, and at 140 minutes, becomes a little tough to sit through. You hate to think of others destroying an artist's vision, but it's hard to fathom the original 244 minutes. One of the more ponderous stories has a man and his son seriously ill from food poisoning, with both of them in garish makeup, and dreaming of a mansion on a hill. Kurosawa overplays it by going back to visions of the mansion several times, and I think it would have been much more powerful had this concept been limited to a single scene. Another story I wasn't fond of had a couple of drunken laborers swapping wives on a whim; while the intent may have been to shock, the entire story falls flat and is dated. Lastly, while there is symbolism in the mentally challenged boy believing he's a tram conductor (from which the title derives), this story is never developed and is also predictable. I see both sides and end up in the middle in my review score. I would not want to watch the film again, and would only recommend it to a Kurosawa fan, which is not a good sign. The film is just a little too understated in its lessons for its length, and too uneven in its story-telling. The use of primary colors and simple sets may have been meant to heighten the feeling of desolation, but it also means a film with few moments of beautiful cinematography. It's sad to me that its poor reception, building on top of the 'Tora! Tora! Tora!' fiasco, was one of the factors that drove Kurosawa to attempt suicide the following year. If anything, it's interesting as a snapshot into the director's life, and his subtle philosophical message. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/13/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Dodes 'Ka-Den

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Cast & Crew

Movie Info

Synopsis A group of impoverished misfits inhabiting a Japanese landfill have experiences that are alternately joyful and disheartening. Young, disabled Roku-chan (Yoshitaka Zushi) spends his days in a fantasy world where he is the captain of an imaginary train, while his mother, Okuni (Kin Sugai), remains in constant prayer, rarely venturing out of her shanty. A homeless man and his child lovingly envision every detail of the home they wish they had money to build, and a mute girl has a tragic encounter.
Director
Akira Kurosawa
Producer
Akira Kurosawa, Yoichi Matsue
Screenwriter
Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Shûgorô Yamamoto
Production Co
Toho Company Ltd.
Genre
Drama
Original Language
Japanese
Release Date (DVD)
Mar 17, 2009
Runtime
2h 20m
Sound Mix
Mono
Aspect Ratio
35mm
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