Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Drunken Angel. B
I've never seen Kurosawa as the master of the subtle, but neither was Shakespeare, which probably one of the reasons he loved adapting the Bard so much. And yet he certainly did get a hold on how to work a dramatic scene effectively without letting his intentions feel forced. Just watch Drunken Angel, his 1948 film about an angry criminal, an angry doctor, and their angry friendship, and you'll see how much he improved. That's not to say the movie's bad; on the contrary, it's actually pretty unique, yet Kurosawa, while he has dramatically compelling ideas, isn't quite sure how to present them yet. As a result he goes for obvious techniques, like continuous shots of marsh to suggest the potentially dark, confusing, murky state of the human soul, of a man playing guitar to show the other side, and intense yelling and fighting to advance conflicts. But the movie works because Kurosawa has other things going on, like a story we haven't seen before and themes that foreshadow the Shakespearean interests that defined so much of the rest of his career. Also, check it out just to see Kurosawa's first of 16 collaborations with Toshiro Mifune. Here he seems like he's come right out of a Hollywood gangster picture, with hair slicked back and fancy suits and a clean shaven face. His performance isn't great, but the thing about Mifune is that he had such a powerful presence that merely existing in a movie gave him a certain type of power that enabled him to dominate on screen even if he wasn't trying-or trying too hard.