Red Beard

Director: Akira Kurosawa

The final film in the long partnership between Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, Red Beard is set in a public hospital at the end of the nineteenth century. Mifune plays the title character, the red-bearded head of the hospital, a brilliant, perceptive but highly unconventional doctor. We see him through the eyes of an ambitious young intern who at first resents the older man’s gruff manner and disregard for the accepted pieties of medical orthodoxy and the norms of polite behaviour. But gradually he comes to recognise the compassion and humanity behind Red Beard’s tough realism. What could easily have been a trite, soap opera-ish story is transmuted by the honesty of Mifune’s performance, and by the intensity with which Kurosawa invests the central master-pupil relationship, a frequently recurring theme in his work. Scrupulous as ever in his attention to detail, Kurosawa enriches the film with a vivid recreation of the late Edo period when Japan, newly opened to the West, was undergoing far-reaching changes.
Japan, 1965. English subtitles. Black and white. Anamorphic. 179 mins.

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