Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Akira Emoto, Kumiko Aso, Juro Kara, Masanori Sera, Jacques Gamblin
Director: Sh˘hei Imamura
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Military & War
Best movie of 1998
vanhubris | 09/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A friend of Casanova once told him after reading his memoirs that one third made him laugh, one third was erotically stimulating, and one third gave him food for thought. This movie does the same- it is simultaneously funny, sexy, and inspiring without resorting to cheap sentimentality. Dr. Akagi is either a crank or a shining example for anyone who wants to be truly human."
Part Warm-Hearted, Part Serious. A Very Good Movie.
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 03/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is a strange -- and very good -- drama that combines situation comedy, black humor, serious issues and, in a way, a kind of hopefulness. It takes place in a Japanese village on a small island during the period between Germany's surrender and the atom bombs fell. Militarism is always present with army officers and soldiers stationed in the village and with a near-by camp that holds prisoners-of-war.
Akagi (Akira Emoto) is a middle-aged, widowed family doctor, the only one left in town, who is always on the go getting to his patients. He is obsessed by the prevalence of liver disorders and is convinced that this is caused by hepatitis. He's called "Dr. Liver" by the townspeople because he so often diagnoses them, in addition to what else they be sick with, as having hepatitis. Among the few people who help him are a morphine-addicted surgeon, a lusty Buddhist bonze, an escaped Dutch prisoner and a young woman who gave up prostitution and now works for him as his housekeeper. His son is a military doctor in Manchuria
The movie begins as a warm-hearted study of Dr. Akagi and his determination to serve his patients and identify the cause of the hepatitis. The underlying tension of Japan's fanatic militarism is present, but the attention is on Dr. Akagi. As the movie progresses, however, a number of darker themes begins to dominate. Lack of drugs and food become evident. The fanaticism, brutality and priviledged status of the military become plot elements. Japan's medical experiments on prisoners in Manchuria is explicitly alluded to. Good people die. Dr. Akagi himself questions his worth and the point of his life. The movie's resolution lies with his renewed commitment as a family doctor, and with his dignity and self-worth back in place.
This may sound like any number of other doctor movies where the hero finds himself in a crisis, doubts himself and his work, and them finds himself again. This movie is a little different. The setting in Japan just before the country collapses at the end of WWII is unusual. The dark side of things is explicit in the last third of the movie. And although the conclusion offers a sense of personal hope, it's against a scene where the doctor and his young housekeeper, on a boat returning from a visit to a patient and where the two just might be finding a relationship, see far in the distance a cloud from one of the atom bombs.
I enjoyed the movie a lot, and if you like foreign films this might be one for you to have. The DVD picture is a little soft but not bad."
On the edge of war
Edward Tsai | New York, NY United States | 11/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Vengence of Mine was my first exposure to Shohei Imamura, a tautly amazing movie full of dark humor, fearful violence, sexual tension and deep questions about life (note: this movie, among any other, absolutely deserves to be released on DVD). Dr. Akagi explores many of the same themes from the angle of a more dignified and admirable protagonist, a widower physician in a small fishing village whose life work is to tend to the many locals who are falling ill with hepititis, a disease whose pathology and means of transmission are not yet understood. It also presents an interesting view of wartime Japan in a village removed from the immediate devastation of the war, how life goes on as it typically does but with the war slowly intruding more and more into the people's daily lives until it literally explodes above their heads. The director's great talent, in my opinion, is how he never judges his subjects, whether because the person is a whore, a morphine addict, an embezzler, a dissolute drunkard or pervert. He depicts them as they are. The characters and situations depicted in this movie seem to me very authentic representations of the Japanese character, in its multiplicity, and that's part of what makes it a delight to watch. Dr. Akagi is the most intriguing one of all the characters, as he goes through not one but two personal transformations in the movie that are so subtle at first that you fail to notice them until the movie comes together neatly at the end yet leaves the question, what motivates us to do the things that we do in life, what's our purpose in life and what keeps us alive. Of course, the answer is never clear, and the movie does not shy from that reality. The cinemetography is also very nice, especially the scenes with the whale at the end which are simply beautiful and imbuded with mythos in a scene in which director wonderfully transforms the village whore and daughter of a fisherman into the mythical woman that reawakens Dr. Akagi to his life. Beautifully done. Only complaint: the jazz soundtrack is a bit overly intrusive and excessive. That should have been toned down a bit, but otherwise, a very moving and poignant film."
I'll kill a whale for you!
Kgar | SF, CA | 10/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like Imamura's The Eel, Dr. Akagi is a film in which likable characters and unusual circumstance come together to create scenes of uncontrived humanity. Usually in movies you know when you are supposed to feel emotional. The camera starts to slowly zoom in on Tom Hanks' fixed gaze, the music comes in softly... I can feel my eyes beginning to tear just thinking about it. Well you will get none of that b.s. in the world of Imamura. He purposely holds the camera back as not to let the viewer become to intimate with the characters. When they become emotional or say something profound, it isn't dwelled upon. Scenes of humanity can quickly cut to scenes of humor.
Basically Dr. Akagi is a good guy. While his country flounders in a losing war, he's running from patient to patient trying to unravel the secrets of hepatitis. In addition to this he has reluctantly agreed to help a young prostitute, by hiring her as his assistant. His friends include a morphine addicted surgeon, a horny priest, and an escaped european POW. Like I said earlier; likable characters and unusual circumstance. The way the story unfolds has to be seen to be understood and the ending is an enigmatic and rewarding celebration of it all. This movie is odd but accessible, heartfelt but never cheesy, funny and emotional. All and all another great and totally original work from Shohei Imamura."