After a battle with rival criminals, a small-time gangster is treated by an alcoholic doctor in post-war Japan. The doctor diagnoses the young gangster's tuberculosis, and convinces him to begin treatment for it. The two enjoy an uneasy friendship until the gangster's former boss is released from prison and seeks to take over his gang once again. The ailing young man loses his status as gang boss and becomes ostracised, and eventually confronts his former boss in a battle to the death.Written by
Bernard Keane <BKeane2@email.dot.gov.au>
In early drafts of the script, the story was almost entirely about Doctor Sanada (Takashi Shimura) and Matsunaga the thug (Toshirô Mifune) was a small supporting part. However, Akira Kurosawa was so impressed with Mifune's performance that he greatly increased the Matsunaga part, to the point where the Doctor and Matsunaga are almost equal in screen-time. See more »
When Matsunaga throws the Doctor out of the "Bolero", we see him fall on his back. His shirtsleeves are rolled up, so his forearms are bare: his left arm does not make contact with the ground. The next scene is of him cleaning a wound in his left forearm, below the elbow. See more »
[Matsunaga staggers drunkenly to Dr. Sanada's office]
Hey, old man! You home?
[Dr. Sanada comes out in his kimono]
You told me to come here, so, I'm here. A yakuza never breaks 'is word. When I make a promise, I keep it.
See more »
DRUNKEN ANGEL sees the master of Japanese cinema, Akira Kurosawa, on solid form in the simplistic tale of the developing friendship between an alcoholic doctor and a dying gangster who comes to him for help. While the story is set very noticeably in a poor, run-down, post-WW2 Japan, the story is one which brims with life and vitality, which is somewhat ironic given the subject matter.
The calibre of the acting is second to none which is no surprise for fans of the director. Takashi Shimura underpins the whole thing as the titular character, a stressed-out doctor battling the bottle as well as the problems of his various associates and patients, but it's Toshiro Mifune who gives the stand-out turn here. This was the star's first collaboration with Kurosawa and it comes as no surprise that the pair would go on to re-team many times in the future. Mifune's performance as the small-fry gangster, addicted to drinking and partying and yet suffering from the effects of tuberculosis, is one of his greats.
Kurosawa's cinematography is another winner here, and there are some fine moments of tension including a great, extended fight scene at the climax. My favourite moment is a bizarre dream sequence in which Mifune is chased along a beach by a corpse only to find himself trapped in a slow motion run. It's one of the few times that the director went for outright horror (along with THRONE OF BLOOD) and it makes me wish he had made an all-out horror film at least once in his career.
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