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The tenement slums of Edo Japan may have evidenced a paucity of elegance and riches—but, as seen in The Lower Depths , certainly not drama. Take Osugi, the wife of a spiteful landlord, whose passions for her spouse have faded. In comes the self-appointed thief of the slums, Sutekichi, to take his place. That is, until, Sutekichi loses interest in Osugi, preferring instead her younger sister, Okayo. In his 1957 film, based on the eponymous play by Maxim Gorky, director Akira Kurosawa presents a story that touches upon the frailties of love and jealously for those mired in abject poverty and anxious to escape. Even more enticing than the conniving plotline is the well-developed array of characters—from a drunken one-time actor with no memory for lines to a grandfatherly Buddha who spouts endearing witticisms with eternal hope. Essential to Kurosawa was the need for the screen to convey social realities often neglected in real life. His penchant for enduring themes has allowed that to remain possible some 50 years later.
THE LOWER DEPTHS SCREENS DAILY AUGUST 14-17 AT AFI SILVER THEATRE, 8633 COLESVILLE RD., SILVER SPRING. $6-$10. (301) 495-6700.