A minor Kurosawa that doesn't seem to know who it's main characters and dilemmas actually are. The first half is stronger as it observes how tabloids twist and turn the relationship between celebrities and the public, even making the artists doubt their desire to continue. The second half is a slow and predictable Faust-like story of a man torn between corruption and righteousness. It's decent but disappointing.
I found myself the most disappointed by this than any other Kurosawa film. It was really uneven in terms of story, tubercular girl is far too melodramatic. I will agree with Josh that it is humorous, but I find the sentimental scenes far too obviously cued. That said I think that Takashi Shimura performance's makes the film worth watching, especially for fans of Ikiru.
The best thing that can be said is that it's not as predictable as it could be. A painter meets a well-known singer, the two are photographed in a compromising situation, and a tabloid flames a scandal. When the painter sues for libel, the moves does a 180; it's no longer about the irresponsibility of the press, but the redemption of a broken down attorney. A compelling, sentimental, frustrating work from the master.
Kurosawa never fails to deeply impress. Here we see what could have been a simple courtroom drama become a deeply humanistic cry for moral responsibility, not just of tabloid journalism, but of every single person out there. We all have the ability to become "a star" as the film states, if we only try. The Christmas scene where they all sing in the bar brought tears to my eyes. Unabashed, brutal and very moving!
It's heart is in the right place & the acting is top-notch but this look at the media meanders a bit as it eventually becomes the lawyer's redemption story, who struggles to overcome his weaknesses. And while Shimura's lawyer is a fascinating and pathetic character and makes up for the shifting focus, the villains are one-noted and the story's middle section drags until the great courtroom climax.
Paparazzi have been a problem from the beginning -this film makes their carnal roots evident. The artist is torn by modernity. One of Kurosawa's most honest and, sadly, on the nose films. The camera work is brilliant at points. A lack of consistency prevents a lasting impression. This story could have gone anywhere but where SCANDAL goes is quite personal. Several themes are later revisited in a less plain manner.
It's interesting how rarely anyone comments on just how funny this film is. Quite a few shots are carefully composed around a visual joke, such as the microphones surrounding Ichiro and the editor during the early interview sequences. The most sentimental scenes in the film are also undercut by massive punchlines, such as Hiruta crying over his daughter, only to fall asleep and snore on her.
A very ordinary first half then the fillm becomes a little more interesting thanks to Takashi Shimura's performance. The themes handled - the old and new morality in the Japan of the late 40's and the freedom of the press - are submerged by the melodramatic story of the tubercular girl of the attorney Hiruta. A disappointment.
Like many early Kurosawa films, the emotional arc in this story may nowadays seem too commonplace/generic/standard, until you realize that these are the films those lesser, generic films are imitating. Kind of like the Beatles writing all those pop songs that have been rehashed for decades.