In this powerful early noir from the great Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune bursts onto the screen as a volatile, tubercular criminal who strikes up an unlikely relationship with Takashi Shimura’s jaded physician. Set in and around the muddy swamps and back alleys of postwar Tokyo, Drunken Angel is an evocative, moody snapshot of a treacherous time and place, featuring one of the director’s most memorably violent climaxes. —The Criterion Collection
The son of an army officer, Kurosawa studied art before gravitating to film as a means of supporting himself. He served seven years as an assistant to director Kajiro Yamamoto before he began his own directorial career with Sanshiro Sugata (1943), a film about the 19th century struggle for supremacy between adherents of judo and jujitsu that so impressed the military government, he was prevailed upon to make a sequel (Sanshiro Sugata Part Two). Following the end of World War II, Kurosawa’s career gathered speed with a series of films that cut across all genres, from crime thrillers to period dramas. Among the latter, his Rashomon (1951) became the first postwar Japanese film to find wide favor with Western audiences. It was Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (1954), however, that made the largest impact of any of his movies outside of Japan. Although heavily cut for its original release, this three-hour-plus medieval action drama, shot with painstaking… read more
While it's Kurosawa's samurai movies that have made him famous, I've found that lately when I think of my favorite Kurosawa movies I'm turning to his work set in contemporary Japan. There's something so raw, immediate, energetic and emotional about it. This is also a good companion piece to watch alongside Ikiru in the way that it deals with themes of life, death, and sacrifice. Kurosawa's direction hadn't reached the perfection it would later on, but the way he captures post-war Japan is great stuff.
Set in the seed of post-war Japan, the dynamism of Mifune and Shimura is here conceived: Shimura the hardened M.D., Mifune the young hoodlum whom Shimura’s old dog repentantly sees his younger self in, and whose invincibility is shattered when diagnosed with TB; his affliction an analogy for the crime and corruption that too have infested his life. These two brash, stubborn men as the dirty, stinking, drunken angels; chance for deliverance for both. Solid study, dexterously shot - a stronger entry in Kurosawa’s early period.
The brashness of the two main characters far exceeds that of any Noir Kurosawa may have been trying to imitate. United by their flaws, the two individuals are entrapped in a philosophical battle neither can escape. "Hmm... I've never had a patient as rough as you." The physical nature of the characters is so impressive in this film. Both are brutish, blunt and demand respect; one empowered by his status and the other by his rejection of those same structures. Every line is delivered with voice, body and spirit. "A lousy band can make the blues sound like a tango." This is the good stuff.
Drunken Angel is an important movie in many ways. It is Tishoro Mifune’s debut film as well as the first in which Shimura and Mifune have acted together. Most importantly, this is Kurosawa’s take on… read review
Akira Kurosawa’s complex treatment of the two lead characters in Drunken Angel (1948), Doctor Sanada (Takashi Shimura) and gangster Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune), is detailed, thoughtful and effective… read review