Archive for November 9th, 2012

Kyoji Fujisaki is a doctor who makes the mistake of taking off his surgical gloves during an operation. His finger is cut open on a scalpel and in the process contracts syphillis from the patient. He hides the fact he has the disease from his girlfriend Misao and his family and injects himself with medicine in order to be cured. Kyoji even breaks off his engagement to Misao as he does not want to give her the disease. He doesn’t tell her what’s wrong with him but he pushes her away and tell her to find another man. A nurse who works with Kyoji discovers him injecting himself with Salvarsan to treat his syphillis and becomes Kyoji’s confidante to his inner feelings. Kyoji accidentally meets with the man Nakada who has given him syphillis at a police station and is horrified when he says that as he’s now cured his wife is pregnant. The fact is the man still has syphillis and Kyoji rages about his lack of responsibility to his wife and baby who may be born with a disability or even be deformed.

The Quiet Duel isn’t an Akira Kurosawa movie you hear many people talking about. It certainly doesn’t get the attention of his most famous movies. Perhaps it’s because this movie was made early in his career when he was still learning his trade. After watching the movie I can safely say that whilst it may not be a masterpiece it is still a very good well-acted melodrama. At this time in his career, Kurosawa had moved from temporarily from Toho studios because of strike action and was now working for Daiei and the people under him there were inexperienced. This was only his 2nd collaboration with Toshiro Mifune and their working relationship was yet to hit it’s peak. The has got all the style and techniques you’d associate with a Kurosawa movie but he would just use it for greater effect in his later works. The story is adapted from a stage play which means the plot doesn’t really take us anywhere. There are only a handful of locations used in the movie. Even though the storyline about how deadly syphillis is would appear to be outdated now because of the advances in medicine, you can substitute it for a modern day disease such as AIDS. The plot is about a man making a choice about his life and struggling to live with his decision. Kyoji chooses to shut off his feelings from anybody and tries to carry on as normal in his professional career, no matter how painful it might be. He feels it is better for Misao, his girlfriend to not to waste her youth in waiting for him to be cured which might take 10 years and find another suitor. He doesn’t want her to get the disease off him. The story trundles along to a dramatic climax which sees Nakada, the man who gave Kyoji his disease in a drunken syphillis frenzy return to the hospital where his wife has given birth. He demands to see his child and well…….I won’t spoil what happens when he sees the results of his recklessness.

Toshiro Mifune is on his A-game as Kyoji which culminates in an emotional scene as he breaks down in front of the nurse who works with him and pours out his feelings to her about seeing off his former girlfriend who is about to get married. It’s quite heartbreaking to watch. Kurosawa knew how to get the best from Mifune. A regular from Kurosawa’s movies Takashi Shimura who plays Kyoji’s father also turns in a brilliant and underrated performance. The same could also be said about Noriko Sengoku who plays the tough as nails nurse Rui Minegishi.

If you compare this to another Kurosawa medical drama movie Red Beard, it doesn’t quite hit the same heights as it but this is still a solid piece of storytelling by the master which is well worth your time.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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