Cinema: Oh, The Way People Live!

The Lower Depths (Toho) is a fascinating minor work by a continually amazing major artist: Japan's Akira Kurosawa. Filmed in 1957, Depths is presented simply as a Japanization of Maxim Gorky's classic proletarian comedy, but in fact the film has a hissing demonic energy and a vast life-welcoming humor that are unmistakably Kurosawa's own.

Like the play, the picture does not rigorously develop a plot. It establishes a milieu, a geography of moral failure, an ultimate, absolute flophouse. And in this flophouse it engenders characters as straw breeds lice: a smalltime crook, a sentimental whore, a police spy who regularly gets beaten...

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