W.B. at the movies: Living

I’ve just watched Bill Nighy in Living, playing the part (Watanabe/Williams) that Takashi Shimura originated in Ikiru (To Live) back in 1952.

The newer film is remarkably faithful to the original Akira Kurosawa masterpiece, adapted by the brilliant Kazuo Ishiguro, essentially telling the same story — still set in the 1950s — for a modern audience.

Given a terminal diagnosis, a stiff older bureaucrat attempts to come back to life, finally seizing an opportunity to help some neighborhood mothers in their effort to have a small playground built in a bombed-out ruin.

The story parallels the original, right down to Watanabe/Williams’ fellow bureaucrats, after his funeral, pledging to learn from his example only to be bogged down by the quotidian once again, and recreating the legendary scene of Watanabe/Williams swinging in his playground and singing the sad folk song that he had asked a tavern musician to play earlier in the film.

Nighy — as Shimura before him — is one of those sometimes underrated treasures who deserves to be considered among our finest actors.

Living (currently on Netflix) is a quiet, slow-developing film and therefore not for everyone, but like Kurosawa’s original, it was definitely for me and moved me to the core.

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