James Steve Robles | Mora, New Mexico, USA | 09/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am biased, I'll tell you that up front. Kurosawa is my favorite director. Even if he were not, I would still love this film. Takashi Shimura (the head samurai in "Seven Samurai") plays an alcoholic doctor in a dumpy urban part of post-war Tokyo. Toshiro Mifune plays a small-time gangster who initially visits the doctor regarding a bullet wound. The doctor discovers that the gangster also has tuberculosis, and stubbornly tries to treat it. I say stubbornly because the gangster tries to act macho about the disease. The two charactors are both so strongly portrayed that the doctor's attempt to treat the disease and the gangster's faked but desperate non-chalance makes their relationship a struggle; at times they actually come to blows over the doctor's persistence. The doctor, I think, sees something of himself in the gangster; someone on the edge of society, someone with flaws, someone with unfulfilled dreams. The doctor wants the gangster to survive, and the gangster desperately wants to survive, but his "toughness" keeps him from admitting that he wants to live. In any event, my wife and I fall in love with the doctor everytime that we see this film. He is the better angel of our nature, scolding and caring. Watch the film; you too will fall in love with it."
Brilliant character study
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 11/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The key to "Drunken Angel" is the two main characters, both flawed and somewhat nobel. Mifune is Matsunaga, a powerful gangster coming to grips with his own weakness. He has tuberculosis. Shimura plays Dr. Sanada, a good hearted doctor who's weakness for alcohol has left him in the lower depths of society. When Mifune arrives to be treated for a gunshot wound, Shimura sees something in him, and attempts to treat him for his TB. This uneasy friendship, and the balance of the two characters as they get to know each other, is the strength of "Drunken Angel." Both performances are gripping. The plot involving a gang boss released from jail, allows the two characters to develop with each other. The direction is tight and controlled.This is easily a masterpiece, from one of cinema's greatest directors."
Scruffy, alcoholic angels
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 12/20/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Filmed only three years after the end of World War II, Kurosawa Akira's Drunken takes place within the filthy confines of shanty town marketplace where a heavily polluted swamp dominates the scenery. Within this black market, gangsters rule through their money and weapons, controlling the flow of alcohol, drugs, and rations. However, even within such a dismal place there are some bright spots, even if that bright spot is an alcoholic, scruffy doctor.
Drunken Angel opens with Matsunaga, Mifune Toshiro, coming to the office of Dr. Sanada. He claims that his hand was accidentally slammed in a door, and when the doctor notices that it is also bleeding, he states that there was also a nail. Dr. Sanada, without using painkillers, digs into the wound with a pair of tweezers and eventually finds a bullet and he eventually cleans the wound up and bandages it. Because he has a cough, Matsunaga asks the doctor to give him some medicine. However, the doctor states that Matsunaga should get himself checked for tuberculosis since his "high lifestyle" leaves him a prime candidate to catch the disease. Dr. Sanada does a halfhearted examination with his stethoscope, it is halfhearted because x-rays are necessary to detect the beginnings of tuberculosis, and he soon discovers a fist-sized hole in Matsunaga's lungs. Matsunaga is angered by the news, but this occurrence soon begins a tenuous friendship between Dr. Sanada and Matsunaga. The often drunk doctor not only wants to save Matsunaga from his tuberculosis, but from the environment in which he lives: as a member of the yakuza he is tied to a feudalistic code of "honor" that ties him to a continuous circle of murder and revenge. However, there is something else as well that the doctor hopes to save Matsunaga from.
After World War II came to a close, The Occupation Forces led by SCAP, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers controlled basically all forms of media, including books and films. When a new film was beginning production, the producers of the film had to send a short synopsis to the Civil Censorship Detachment which cut certain aspects of the film if it had anti-American sentiments, depicted remnants of World War II, the black market, etc., and encouraged the filmmakers to include such things as the different classes working together, anti-feudalistic ideals, kissing, etc. Kurosawa, often considered one of the most "Western" of filmmakers, was in fact quite against Western ideals, i.e. American, ideals forced on Japan and slowness in which the occupation forces restored Japan to a habitable level. The yakuza in the film are the ones who have truly embraced the West. Matsunaga wears an aloha shirt and sports Western-tailored suits, he drinks Western liquor, and dances to jazz music. The dangerous Okada also quickly embraces Western dress after he is released from prison. The filthy swamp could be seen not only as the result of the devastation caused by World War II, but also as a continuous stagnation of the country as long as the American forces were present.
While often not listed as one of his best films, Drunken Angel marks a deviation from earlier films such as No Regrets for Our Youth (1946) and One Wonderful Sunday (1946) which held closer to the standards and ideals established by SCAP."
A simple touching, hopeful story
isolde Bateman | south east asia | 06/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"the movie is excellent without any traces of the commercialism that splashes the movies of today and makes them appear rehashed and contrived. a beautiful, sad and touching storyline that contributes to the grace of kurosawa's flowing style of filming and brilliantly stark camerawork. toshiro mifune is masterful in his portrayal of a gangster torn apart by the conflict of saving his own life or preserving his image. one of the director's many seminal works- philosophical and charmingly amusing. leaves the viewer wondering, half-ashamed, why so much of the seemingly obvious magic in life explored in this picture remains undiscovered until we look closer and learn to appreciate it. a rainy saturday afternoon kind of film that is both thought-provoking and very entertaining in its portrayal of life in pre-war japan."
kurosawa | St. Louis, Missouri, USA | 06/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first saw this film, it took my breath away. Mifune's performance is absolutely overpowering, and the whole structure and pace of the film is just right. It is one of my favorite of Kurosawa's films, and the fact that it is now finally being released to the public thrills me. It has not been very available and is probably the most underappreciated of Kurosawa's masterpieces.Drunken Angel is a contemporary tale of the squalor of postwar Japanese society, and of an angel shining his light through the darkness to help those few he can. This film introduces for the first time many themes, symbols, and ideas that recieve their consummate expression in Kurosawa's later films, such as Ikiru, and even beyond, and around which Kurosawa's entire body of work revolves.We see in the gangster the first lead performance of Toshiro Mifune, one of the greatest actors ever to honor the cinema with his presence, and in the doctor the first truly great performance by Takashi Shimura, the most reliable and talented actor in the Kurosawa group. This role also helps to contribute in subtle ways to his greatest performance, that of Watanabe in Ikiru.And of Kurosawa himself, what can I say, he has once again left me at a loss for words. The end fight sequence with the mirror and the paint is pure cinematic genius.So this film is a definite must see, not only for fans of Kurosawa, but for the entire world. It has my highest recommendation."