HIGH AND LOW (TENGOKU TO JIGOKU) (Akira Kurosawa, 1963)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
June 17-19, $13, 11:00 am
Series continues through September 11
On the verge of being forced out of the company he has dedicated his life to, National Shoes executive Kingo Gondo’s (Toshirō Mifune) life is thrown into further disarray when kidnappers claim to have taken his son, Jun (Toshio Egi), and are demanding a huge ransom for his safe return. But when Gondo discovers that they have mistakenly grabbed Shinichi (Masahiko Shimazu), the son of his chauffeur, Aoki (Yutaka Sada), he at first refuses to pay. But at the insistence of his wife (Kyogo Kagawa), the begging of Aoki, and the advice of police inspector Taguchi (Kenjiro Ishiyama), he reconsiders his decision, setting in motion a riveting police procedural that is filled with tense emotion. Loosely based on Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novel King’s Ransom, High and Low is divided into two primary sections: the first half takes place in Gondo’s luxury home, orchestrated like a stage play as the characters are developed and the plan takes hold. The second part of the film follows the police, under the leadership of Chief Detective Tokura (Tatsuya Nakadai), as they hit the streets of the seedier side of Yokohama in search of the kidnappers. Known in Japan as Tengoku to Jigoku, which translates as Heaven and Hell, High and Low is an expert noir, a subtle masterpiece that tackles numerous socioeconomic and cultural issues as Gondo weighs the fate of his business against the fate of a small child; it all manages to feel as fresh and relevant today as it probably did back in the ’60s. It is screening at 11:00 am June 17-19 as part of the IFC Center’s Weekend Classics: Kurosawa series, which continues June 24-26 with Dodes’ka-Den (1970) and July 1-4 with Seven Samurai (1954).