Kurosawa Diary, Part 3: Drunken Angel

I watched the Drunken Angel DVD Saturday night, the most recent film in my Kurosawa saga (Kurosaga?). I had seen it several times before, including a Voom Network HD broadcast a few months ago.

In other words, this wasn’t a new discovery or a rediscovery.

Drunken Angel represents a major step towards mature Kurosawa. It hits what would become the dominant theme in his work (in my opinion): The importance of kindness and charity in an otherwise cruel and indifferent universe. He makes good use of a large and complex set. Gangsters are shown as immoral scum.

And Toshiro Mifune steals the film in the role that would shoot him to stardom. It was only his third film and his first with Kurosawa.

Not that the full Kurosawa style had materialized, yet. I didn’t notice any striking use of a telephoto lens. There was no lateral cutting. And as far as I could tell, no multi-camera setups were used.

The title refers to an gruff, short-tempered, and alcoholic doctor (Takashi drunkenangel Shimura, who was in every Kurosawa film made before the actor died in 1982). He runs a small slum clinic next to a filthy sump, and he’s trying desperately to keep people alive. Mifune plays one of his patients, a tubercular gangster who cannot fight the disease and keep up his high-living, macho lifestyle.

This is the earliest Kurosawa film to get the full Criterion treatment, with commentary and extras. One extra, about Kurosawa’s battles with the American military censors, directly contracts the commentary. Who’s right? I don’t know, but it’s nice to get two opinions.

With this post, I’m up to date on my Kurosawa Diary. It will be two or three weeks before I get to the next film, The Silent Duel.

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