A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
The old man knows he is dying of cancer. In a bar, he tells a stranger he has money to spend on a “really good time,” but doesn't know how to spend it.
The stranger takes him out on the town, to gambling parlors, dance halls and the red light district, and finally to a bar where the piano player calls for requests and the old man, still wearing his overcoat and hat, asks for "Life Is Short--Fall in Love, Dear Maiden."
"Oh, yeah, one of those old '20s songs," the piano man says, but he plays it, and then the old man starts to sing. His voice is soft and he scarcely moves his lips, but the bar falls silent, the party girls and the drunken salary men drawn for a moment into a reverie about the shortness of their own lives.
This moment comes near the center point of "Ikiru," Akira Kurosawa's 1952 film about a bureaucrat who works for 30 years at Tokyo City Hall and never accomplishes anything. Mr. Watanabe has become the chief of his section, and sits with a pile of papers on either side of his desk, in front of shelves filled with countless more documents. Down a long table on either side of him, his assistants shuffle these papers back and forth. Nothing is ever decided. His job is to deal with citizen complaints, but his real job is to take a small rubber stamp and press it against each one of the documents, to show that he has handled it.