Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Bad Sleep Well

(Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru, Japan, 1960)

Not one of Kurosawa’s best, which just means it’s a lot better than 90% of the films you will see this year. There were two alternate titles used in various countries: The Rose in the Mud, and The Worse You Are, the Better You Sleep. I kinda like the second one. It’s a bit of Hamlet—son seeks revenge for death of father, but suffers doubts—and a lot of Japanese film noir. There is some of the over-acting (to western eyes, anyway) that you have to get used to if you watch Japanese films, but it all is centered and anchored by the quiet resolve of that wonderful man, Toshiro Mifune, in glasses and a conservative suit, almost unrecognizable here if you only know him from the samurai films. He could teach John Wayne a thing or two about screen presence, plus he could do ironic comedy wonderfully. The ending is the weakest part, not because it is a downer (the title sort of gives that away) but because too much happens off-screen and is related after the fact. My other favorite Japanese actor, Takashi Shimura, has a small part. I’d like to have seen him in the part taken by Masayuki Mori, he’d have done it very well. Not that Mori is bad as the man who will do anything, literally anything, to cover up his crimes.