Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 by Ben Pearson
(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: High and Low
Where You Can Stream It: The Criterion Channel
The Pitch: After making two back-to-back samurai classics, Yojimbo and Sanjuro, director Akira Kurosawa switched into contemporary mode to make High and Low (literal translation: Heaven and Hell), an urban thriller centering on an executive who faces a moral choice. On the cusp of orchestrating a shrewd and righteous corporate takeover, the executive’s chauffeur’s son is kidnapped and ransomed for 30 million yen. Should the exec pay the money – everything he’s saved and has spent his entire life working for – or refuse the kidnapper and go through with his takeover?
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Kurosawa’s movie is largely about income inequality, and that subject is so evergreen that the movie still feels incredibly vital even though it first premiered in 1963. (In fact, it would work wonderfully as a double feature with Bong Joon-ho’s recent Best Picture winner Parasite, which is now streaming on Hulu.) In addition to its explorations of wealth and poverty and the delicious moral quandaries it puts its characters through, High and Low is also a propulsive detective procedural which devotes a significant portion of its runtime to seeing characters use their wits to track the kidnapper. Considering how ingrained procedural tropes have become in popular culture, this film feels incredibly modern when viewed for the first time. Read More »