Drunken Angel


Another fragmented entry from my film notes moleskin, not sure when I saw this movie, though probably a couple years ago. Not really fair to type these, but perhaps the film will come back to me as I transcribe.

"Drunken Angel - Criterion Collection" (Akira Kurosawa)

Set amidst the postwar rubble of American-occupied Japan, Akira Kurosawa's film noir centers on hard-living gangster Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune) and the doctor (Takashi Shimura) who tries to save his life. After diagnosing Matsunga's tuberculosis, Dr. Sanada goes the extra mile to reform his self-destructive patient. Matsunga comes to respect Sanada, but ultimately his dark side leads him into a brutal battle with a mob boss (Reisaburo Yamamoto). [From Netflix: Drunken Angel]

Unfortunately, Netflix does not reliably mark which edition of a film they send: in this case, I didn't watch the Criterion Collection release, which presumedly is a better print.

A little stilted, stiff as if nervous, yet compelling drama. Toshiro Mifune Takashi Shimura* is wonderful, in a prelude to his more richly realized role in Ikuru. Dancing to American-esque swing music, music of the victors? Filmed in 1947-48, the burned-out, post-war Japan was no set, created by the crew. In fact, the desolated city becomes a character in the drama. Bomb craters and hot jazz. The tonality was so blue, was it filtered? or just a bad print?

The subtitles laughably poor, have to puzzle out the meaning of sentences like "He will find here." Sometimes the brevity works, "the man is drunk, and the lady is scared of it," chimed in rhythm with the clang of a metal utensil created a dramatic tension entirely appropriate to the scene. Sometimes not: "Why being shy for frightening?" or "Your conservative thinking is out!" You can glean the metaphors hinted at but not articulated, yet it grows tiresome.

I'd be very interested to watch the Criterion Collection version to see if
1. the sometimes stunning cinematography (a trademark of Kurosawa) is displayed in a cleaner print and
2. if the subtitles use more natural English so that the film's internal dynamic is not lost to vagaries of unclear syntax

Oh screw it, I bought myself a copy. I'll let you know myself.

*update, Ms. Mayerson fact checks me: Takashi Shimura is who I meant to type. Toshiro Mifune is good in Drunken Angel, but is not in Ikuru at all. Doh!


Man, I have nerve to fact-check anyone when I can't even get my comments on the right entry. Sorry, Seth. In my defense, it was a long day and it ain't over yet.

I watched "Last Man Standing" last night, it's supposed to be Walter Hill's remake of "Yojimbo." Yeah, Walther Hill, should be good, eh? I'm rewatching "Yojimbo." Nothing compares to "Yojimbo." Bruce Willis was worse than usual in "LMS," so bad, not even Walter Hill and Ry Cooder could save it. And the noir voice-over was just stupid. I could tell what was going on, I really didn't need the main character's snarly morose inner thoughts.

There's such a beautiful economy of storytelling in "Yojimbo," never a wasted moment. I know Kurosawa was going for every B-movie Western cliche he could, but it's still sleek, elegant, and highly amusing. I probably never will, but I'd love to see the film score one day just to be sure of what I think I'm hearing. My ear isn't as good as it used to be. And Toshiro Mifune makes Bruce Willis look like a yard dog.

Hi Seth, encore Mayerson here.

Re: "Yojimbo" at Criterion Collection, yes! There's a two fisted box set of "Yojimbo" and, well, the sort of sequel, "Sanjuro," which is being remade for some reason. There's commentary by Stephen Prince, whom I really can't stand because he's so clueless. He's like a guy who really has spent his whole life inside, watching movies. Give me commentary by Micheal Jeck anytime, he's on "Seven Samurai" and he rules!

I rented both "Yojimbo" and "Sanjuro" on NF before the Criterion reissue, and the transfer, translation and sound are way far better on the reissue. The packaging is nifty, too. Totally worth buying, as if you need any encouragement. I love Mifune's character in both films, especially when he starts flirting with other guys. It's adorable, but maybe I'm the only one who can see it.

Around the same time the Yojimbo/Sanjuro box set came out, Criterion also did a nice reissue of "Seven Samurai" and I bought, too. What else is money for? It's a wonderful box set, better transfer, better sound, better translation, although I kind of dislike having it on two discs instead of one (I'm so lazy, it even shocks me) and I wasn't so thrilled with the new commentary. Fortunately they left my hero, Michael Jeck's, commentary on there as well so I can be truly happy.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on November 17, 2007 11:04 PM.

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