Ikiru [1952]

Blessed with timeless humanity, grace, and heartbreaking compassion, Ikiru is one of the most moving dramas in the history of film. Legendary director Akira Kurosawa is best remembered for his samurai epics, but this contemporary masterpiece ranks among his greatest achievements, matched in every respect by the finest performance of Takashi Shimura's celebrated career. Shimura, who nobly led the Seven Samurai two years later, is sublimely perfect as a melancholy civil servant who, upon learning that he has terminal cancer, realizes he has nothing to show for his dreary, unsatisfying life. He seeks solace in nightlife and family, to no avail, until a simple inspiration leads him to a final, enduring act of public generosity. Expressing his own thoughts about death and the universal desire for a meaningful existence, Kurosawa infuses this drama with social conscience and deep, personal conviction, arriving at a conclusion that is emotionally overwhelming and simply unforgettable. --Jeff Shannon

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