Archive for August 17th, 2012

The story is set in post WWII Tokyo amongst one of the city’s slums which has a pool full of diseases close by. Dr Sanada is a gruff alcoholic doctor who is keen to make sure his patients are kept as healthy as possible which is difficult as medical supplies are scarce. A young hothead yazuka named Matsunaga calls at his surgery one day to remove a bullet from his hand. The doctor notices that he has a nasty cough and soon discovers he has TB and that Matsunaga should go and get it treated but Matsunaga refuses. As his condition worsens, he tries to change his lifestyle which is what Dr Sanada advised him to do in order to make his illness better. It doesn’t help that his boss Okada is back on the scene after a spell in prison and intends to reclaim the territory he had before Matsunaga took it over. Okada makes it clear that he intends to get rid of Matsunaga by making him confront a rival gang. Even though the TB in Matsunaga’s body is taking its toll, he cannot let his condition make him appear weak and he sets out to confront his boss……..

This was the first collaboration between Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune which would result in a long and fruitful relationship between the two spanning nearly two decades and 16 movies. Although not one of his classics, it’s still a very good movie and you can see Kurosawa’s flair as director coming to the fore even though its a little rough round the edges – the dream sequence on the beach with Matsunaga being chased by himself is one scene which looks out of place with the rest of the movie. Drunken Angel is also an underrated film noir movie which is sadly overlooked by many people. Kurosawa himself stated that this was the first movie he could call his own due to some interference before and after the war by the studios. In this movie he was free to do as he pleased. It’s a simple and straightforward drama about an uneasy relationship between an angry yakuza man dying of TB and a drunken doctor who is trying to save his life. Their story is set against a background of harsh postwar conditions shown in realistic detail by the festering disease ridden pools in the city. The cinematography is excellent but it’s the two main leads that makes this such a great movie to watch. They work really well together. I would say it’s Shimura more than Mifune that stands out the most in this movie. Their interaction with each other which is full of conflict is also tinged with affection. The highlight for me in this movie is Matsunaga’s fight to the death against Okada who has made everybody turn against him – it is really gripping. Despite the rather short running time compared to his other movies, there’s still some impressive character development on show.

Kurosawa’s brilliant directing along with the fantastic acting of Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura make this a must-see movie. Recommended.

No trailer but here’s a small clip from the movie:

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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