The Lower Depths Using Maxim Gorky's play about life among the destitute of society as their source, two directors -- Akira Kurosawa and Jean Renoir -- come up… The Lower Depths Using Maxim Gorky's play about life among the destitute of society as their source, two directors -- Akira Kurosawa and Jean Renoir -- come up…
DVD Review

The Lower Depths (2004)

EW's GRADE
A

Details Release Date: Jun 22, 2004; DVD Release Date: Jun 22, 2004; Movie Rated: Unrated; With: Bokuzen Hidari, Toshiro Mifune and Isuzu Yamada

Using Maxim Gorky's play about life among the destitute of society as their source, two directors -- Akira Kurosawa and Jean Renoir -- come up with sharply different takes in a new Criterion set. Although Kurosawa moves the action to early-19th-century Japan for his ensemble portrait, he adheres closely to Gorky, evoking the squalor and cruelty with finely drawn portraits: a brooding Toshiro Mifune as the thief in love with the younger sister of his landlady (and ex-paramour) and a withered, grinning Bokuzen Hidari as an old holy man. Renoir's well-coiffed, working-class ''miserables,'' still squabble ferociously, but the story is a male-bonding vehicle for his two stars: Jean Gabin, the thief, teaching Louis Jouvet, the urbane impoverished gambler, the pleasures of lying in the grass. In the upbeat finale -- not Gorky's -- Gabin and the girl (Junie Astor) hit the road like Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert did two years earlier in ''It Happened One Night.''

EXTRAS A superb commentary by Kurosawa expert Donald Richie and a making-of doc; a short intro from Renoir.

Originally posted Jun 25, 2004 Published in issue #771-772 Jun 25, 2004 Order article reprints
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