The Bad Sleep Well (Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru)

Not too successful with the critics or the public, in Japan or abroad, when released in 1960, Akira Kurosawa's The Bad Sleep Well is only now beginning to be appreciated as one of its director's most masterful works. Like High And Low (1962), which described a situation which would come to exist on the front pages ten years later (the political kidnapping of the offspring of wealthy industrialists), The Bad Sleep Well was simply too far ahead of its time. In 1960, most viewers found the subject matter - corruption in the most powerful (interlocked) circles of government and big corporations - somewhat boring. Seeing The Bad Sleep Well today, it is amazing how closely its fictional events resemble the revelations of the Lockheed scandal a decade or more later. However, The Bad Sleep Well is most impressive today by virtue of its brilliant, and highly filmic, exposition of characters and social/political background in a situation of genuine contemporary drama and true intrigue; in complexity and intensity, in its complete integration of the viewpoints of social criticism and character psychology, it can only be called Shakespearean. According to critic Stuart Rosenthal:

“The Bad Sleep Well opens on a wedding reception with speeches that include the profits picture for the bride's father's company and a threat to kill the groom if he doesn't make his new wife happy. It is perhaps the sanest moment in this hard-hitting tirade against corporate corruption and lawlessness. The Bad Sleep Well is a black, twisted story of revenge in which a grieving son takes on powerful business and political figures. The not-so-well-concealed antagonism among the guests at the wedding banquet immediately overturns the viewer's expectations. After this unorthodox introduction, Kurosawa tantalizingly reveals the young man's plot, a bit at a time. He laces this revenge melodrama with dark irony and bitter, grotesque humor, making it a fascinating commentary on the distorted, self-serving values of big business.”

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