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Archive for May 31st, 2012

Medical trainee doctor Noboru Yasumoto thinks he’s only visiting an impoverished public clinic where the poor are served but finds out that the magistrate has assigned him to work there and he he as no choice but to stay. Out of spite he refuses to help the good doctor Kyojio Niide known to everyone as Red Beard who runs the place. Yasumoto even refuses to even wear his clinic uniform but eventually becomes interested in the patients particularly an old man dying and a mad woman who’s kept isolated in a special ward. When Red Beard rescues an abused girl Otoya who has been kept by the owner of a brothel, Yasumoto is given the task of coaxing her out of her shell and helping her on the slow road to recovery.

This is the final collaboration between Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and what a belter it is with it’s main theme being compassion. The story is beautiful, touching and shows the redemption of an arrogant young man who thinks he is above working in Red Beard’s clinic but gradually learns what it means to become a human being whilst learning important and worthwhile lessons in life. I enjoyed watching Yasumoto growing from a person who didn’t really give a toss for any of Red Beard’s patients to a man who cares and decides that instead of wanting to become the Shogunate’s doctor he would like to stay on at the clinic. It’s such a memorable movie which is emotionally devastating yet also lifts your spirits at the same time. The patients we meet at Red Beard’s clinic are interesting and each of them has a story to tell which are moving. There are so many moments which stand out but for myself the one which involves the character of ‘The Mantis’ trying to seduce and kill Yasumoto with a hairpin is chilling.

Toshiro Mifune commands a huge onscreen presence as he always does. His portrayal of the grizzled veteran doctor Red Beard is magnificent. Although his character is restrained most of the time, he does get a chance to kick ass when he takes on a gang of thugs and breaks their arms and legs after they try and stop him from taking a girl to his clinic! Yuzo Kayama is fantastic as Yasumoto and I did like Terumi Niki as the mentally scarred Otoya. Kayama and Niki’s scenes together are wonderful.

Akira Kurosawa’s testament to the goodness of mankind is one of his best. It’s such a shame that Kurosawa and Mifune would never work together again after this movie as they brought the best out of each other. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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