Friday, March 11, 2011

DRUNKEN ANGEL (Japanese) (1948)

‘Human sacrifice has gone out of style. Japanese make so many pointless sacrifices,’ said one drunkard angel. ‘You really gain your face when you put your life on line,’ said another drunken angel.

The title itself suggests some sort of social irony and it reflected in the movie’s two protagonists. Influenced by Dostoevsky’s fiction Kurosawa’s this quite early scripted-directed film is surprisingly the tale of not one but two queer drunken angels played by his long time stalwart actors- Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura. Though Kurosawa brought both of their talents best show in later films of his career, this one is quite a special one to notice how both of these actors won Master’s heart by making their presence felt in many of scenes here. We see the unusual bonding of love and hate on screen between a rough and temperamental Yakuza gangster patient and a compulsive drunkard but concerning doctor. The doctor diagnosed him TB patient and advised him to abstain from smoking and alcohol when the doctor himself was dipsomaniac. As the gangster realized the worsening symptoms, he visited doctor frequently and tried to follow his advice. But as soon as his former Boss returned to claim his turf, he started losing both his luck, lady and finally his life.

The film established two prototype faces of Kurosawa heroes- a macho with loads of guts and attitudes and a humanitarian fighting against all odds. It would be surprising to know that in the initial script Mifune had just small supporting role to perform but Kurosawa was so impressed by his debut act that he increased his screen presence almost equal to Takashi Shimura, who also remained the man to watch in many of his films including his arguably career best act in ‘Ikiru’. It seems that Kurosawa was highly impressed by Noirs of that era and hence we see the reflections in many of frames- the hopeless and seedy postwar Japan where people are frustrated in their approach towards life and identities took solace in booze, music and woman. The highlighted part is the big muddy and toxic puddle slowly turning into city’s most contaminated garbage sight inviting bacteria and mosquitoes to spread infectious diseases.

Not Kurosawa’s best but nevertheless worth watching classic to explore the great actor-director combination happened to the world of cinema-Kurosawa-Mifune. It was the first flower of their long collaboration that further presented us bouquet of 16 films together.


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