Kurosawa Diary, Part 6: Scandal

Less than three hours ago, Scandal was the only post-war Akira Kurosawa film I had never seen. I’ve just seen it, as part of my project of seeing all available Kurosawa films in chronological order, and the only thing it satisfied was my curiosity.

Those who’ve been following this diary know that, in my opinion, Kurosawa at this stage in his career was incapable of making two good films in a row. While his odd-numbered films have ranged from good to near masterpieces, the even-numbered ones stank to high heaven.

Scandal, Kurosawa number ten, is a very even-numbered film.

After opening credits that promise a fast-paced film noir, we get a preachy, dull, and utterly predictable story about a semi-famous painter who innocently meets a beautiful, much more famous singer, only to find their names and photos splashed together by the 1949 Japanese equivalent to the National Enquirer. A lawsuit results, and the movie becomes a courtroom drama.

Here’s something amazing: The protagonist is a) an artist, b) rides a motorcycle, c) considers himself something of a rebel, and d) is played by Toshiro Mifune. Yet Kurosawa still manages to make him dull, lifeless, and annoyingly flawless. His singing non-paramour is just as good, and therefore just as bad.

The only character with any hope of interest is an idealistic but weak-willed and not-too-bright lawyer played by the usually wonderful Takashi Shimura (who surpasses Mifune as my favorite Kurosawa regular). But the hope leads to disappointment, as everything the character does is corny, overplayed, and predictable. And to make it all worse, he has a bed-ridden, tubercular daughter who’s so saintly you can almost hear the chorus of angels waiting to lift her into heaven.

Strictly for Kurosawa fanatics like me, and we only need to see it once.

Kurosawa’s next film, Rashomon, brings us into the era of his major classics. And it also brings us into films in my personal DVD collection. I own seven of the next 13 films, so I won’t be going through Netflix to watch all of them.