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aka - Yoidore Tenshi
Japan 1948
Directed by
Akira Kurosawa
94 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Drunken Angel

Akira Kurosawa’s first major film and Toshiro Mifune’s striking first appearance for the director tells of the relationship between Matsunaga, a tough-acting but at-heart vulnerable Yakuza gangster (Mifune) and an irascible, alcoholic but deeply compassionate doctor, Sanada (another Kurosawa regular, Takashi Shimura) in a slum area of post-WWII Tokyo. Although Sanada despises the predatory ethics of the Yakuza, he still wants to heal the tuberculoid Matsunaga but the latter seems possessed by a death wish.

Kurosawa’s studio, Toho, had built a huge open set of a shopping street with a black market for an earlier film The New Age Of Fools (Shin Baka Jidai) and wanting to get more mileage out of it asked the director to make a film that would use of it.. The often impressive if sometimes rather histrionic result, written by Kurosawa and Keinosuke Uekusa is a mix of social commentary and genre film-making that often suggests the work of Hollywood noir with its preoccupation with male outsider figures and the social underbelly. Tthe influence of American film is most  most apparent in the over-the-top jazz number complete with wailing singer and vamping guitarist (Kurosawa would use a similar device in his next film, Stray Dog, also with MIfune.

FYI: There are various versions of the film with varying running times including a director’s cut (unseen) at 150 minutes..




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