Saturday, 7 March 2015

Red Beard

Just watched Red Beard, Kurosawa's 1965 picture set in and around a 19th century hospital located somewhere in the lower depths... Toshiro Mifune in his final film for Kurosawa plays the titular Red Beard, less a doctor and more a lion battling sickness, poverty and injustice from his underfunded medical practice. It's a long and leisurely film and over the course of three hours Kurosawa sidesteps his central narrative to include a few interesting subplots, and despite the intimacy of the hospital set (where most of the film takes place), Kurosawa occasionally steps outdoors to startling effect - two lovers meet under a gentle snow shower, a man sifts thru the infernal wreckage wrought by an earthquake for his missing wife. It's a pleasingly idiosyncratic film too - in one famous sequence Red Beard uses his anatomical knowledge to disarm (literally so) some braggarts, and in another startling moment, some women wail the name of an ailing child into a well in an effort to reclaim his soul from the spirits of the dead - a bit of folklore filtered thru a scene which might have wandered in from a Japanese Horror film. Wonderful stuff indeed and it was particularly nice to see cameo appearances from Takashi Shimura and Ozu regular Chishu Ryu.

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