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By Adam Suraf on January 5, 2009

Akira Kurosawa explores one of his favorite themes, the elder and the disciple at odds and as one, in this landmark post-war production that past censorship despite its depiction of disease, poverty, and a bustling black market economy. Takashi Shimura is the titular hero, a boozing doctor who treats hot-headed Yakuza Toshiro Mifune for tuberculosis, but the two personalities clash in a ghetto that is symbolized by a giant cesspool at its center, a triumph of production design on a Toho back lot. Kurosawa has stated that he felt like this was the first time in his career that he had made a film entirely his own, with little interference from either the Japanese government or the occupying Americans (the extras on the Criterion disc, a TV documentary and Donald Richie’s informative commentary echo the same), and that being said, it would immediately lead to a string of masterpieces, starting with “Stray Dog” the following year and “Rashomon” the next, that would make him Japan’s most famous and world revered director.