License to Live ニンゲン合格 (1999)

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Japanese Title: ニンゲン 合格

Romaji: Ningen Goukaku

Release Date: January 23rdt, 1999

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Koji Yakusho, Kumiko Aso, Sho Aikawa, Lily, Shun Sugata, Ren Osugi, Yoriko Douguchi, Masahiro Toda, Hajime Inoue

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is better known in the west for his horror films thanks to titles like Cure, Pulse, and Retribution being more available than his dramas and crime thrillers. In fact he is adept at working in other genres and there is a large body of work from his v-cinema days during the 90’s missing to those of us outside Japan. Overall his best film is the drama Tokyo Sonata, a masterful portrait of the breakdown of a modern family. License to Live is another drama film with similar themes to Tokyo Sonata but from 1999, ten years prior, and with a lighter comic touch.

Yutaka Yoshii (Nishijima) has just awoken from a ten year coma caused when he was knocked off his bicycle by a man named Murota (Osugi). It comes as a shock to the hospital staff and Murota who can’t forget the story and paid for Yutaka’s medical bills but Yutaka is conscious and so Murota gives him 500,000 yen to put an end to it.

Yutaka’s family might be glad of his recovery but they have all separated having accepted the possibility he might never wake up. His parents are divorced and his sister is supposedly in America. The only person willing to take Yutaka in is Fujimori (Yakusho), an old college friend of his father who raises carp in a fish farm on the Yoshii’s family property.

License to Live Yutaka (Nishijima) and Fujimori (Yakusho)

 

With Fujimori’s help Yutaka begins to grow up but soon his family hear about his recovery. First to appear is his father Shinichiro (Sugata) who travels the globe and has consigned Yutaka to the past. Next is Yutaka’s sister Chizuru (Aso) who shows up on the fish farm with her fiancé Kasaki (Aikawa) but she doesn’t want to stick around. Finally Yutaka finds out about mother Sachiko (Lily) who is the only one to stick by him.

“Your new life is what counts,” others tell him but Yutaka wants to bring his family back together again, even if only for a moment.

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Kiyoshi Kurosawa Season and Biography

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Regular readers will know that I keep ranting about four directors: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Sion Sono, Takashi Miike. and Shinya Tsukamoto. The reason these four men are always mentioned is that they have made a lot of my all time favourite live-action films. I’ve grown up watching a lot of Japanese films from classics to the most contemporary but it’s these four who have blown my mind with their imagination and use of the medium of film. There are few other directors out there who can match them, in my opinion. Sion Sono and Shinya Tsukamoto have had a season dedicated to them but my most favourite of all, Kurosawa, has not… UNTIL NOW!!!

This is going to be a short season dedicated to the maestro, Kiyoshi Kurosawa because I have reviewed most of his films that are available in the west already. It has come about because I have recently watched three of his lesser known works and two of them are going to be released in the UK this time next week! We start with a biography! A long and boring and incoherent biography! WAIT, COME BACK! There are pictures!

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