A testament to the goodness of humankind, Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard (Akahige) chronicles the tumultuous relationship between an arrogant young doctor and a compassionate clinic director. Toshiro Mifune, in his last role for Kurosawa, gives a powerhouse performance as the dignified yet empathic director who guides his pupil to maturity, teaching the embittered intern to appreciate the lives of his destitute patients. Perfectly capturing the look and feel of 19th-century Japan, Kurosawa weaves a fascinating tapestry of time, place, and emotion. —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
Akahige’s medical drama may appear as dry subject matter and montage, but becomes steadily engaging in its screenwriting and storytelling, overcoming its sickly portrait of humanity towards a rekindling of honour and compassion amongst ailment and decay, in deeply touching social melodrama - not precluding a superb restraint from Mifune as Red Beard, in his valedictory role with Kurosawa; nor an audacious half-hour flashback sequence - poetically shot to boot - among others. Not dry, then; matured.
City of Lights, City of Angels, Los Angeles' festival of new French films, is on through the weekend and Anna Karina will be there on