Director: Akira Kurosawa
This tough, vividly detailed urban drama represents a double first. It was the first movie of which Kurosawa said: ‘I was finally myself. It was my picture. I was doing it and no one else.’ And it was his first film with Toshiro Mifune, the actor with whom, for the next 17 years, he went on to make 15 more films. Mifune, in his first starring role, gives a glowing performance as an arrogant young gangster; Takashi Shimura, Kurosawa’s other favourite actor, is the drunken doctor the gangster consults. Against a livid evocation of the cityscape of post-war Japanoa diseased, festering society, still raw with the wounds of the war yearsothe angry, uneasy relationship between the two men is played out. Each is sickothe gangster with tuberculosis, the doctor with alcoholismoand each perversely comes to need the other and to resent him for it. Kurosawa’s anger at the damage being inflicted on his society seethes through the film, offering no easy answers.
Japan, 1948. English subtitles. Black and white. 98 mins.