After a battle with rival criminals, a small-time gangster is treated by an alcoholic doctor in post-war Japan. The doctor diagnoses the young gangster's tuberculosis, and convinces him to begin treatment for it. The two enjoy an uneasy friendship until the gangster's former boss is released from prison and seeks to take over his gang once again. The ailing young man loses his status as gang boss and becomes ostracised, and eventually confronts his former boss in a battle to the death.Written by
Bernard Keane <BKeane2@email.dot.gov.au>
The performance of Toshirô Mifune as the violent young gangster, Matsunaga (his fourth overall and first in a Kurosawa movie), was so powerful and memorable that, according to director Akira Kurosawa, many people in Japan (and presumably elsewhere) falsely assume that the title, "Drunken Angel," was intended to refer to Matsunaga. But Kurosawa had actually intended the title character to be the alcoholic doctor, Sanada (played by Takashi Shimura), who treats Matsunaga, because, for the filmmaker, he is an "angel" for attempting to save the gangster from his illness and violent lifestyle, despite his own weakness for alcohol. See more »
Even though the story takes place during the hot summer, breath can be seen coming from characters in several scenes. See more »
He tormented you, made you sick, and then deserted you like a puppy. And you still wag your tail and follow him.
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This movie was a big surprise for me. I watched this movie yesterday expecting it to be one of Akira Kurosawa's weaker films, but it ended up being my second-favourite Kurosawa film after Seven Samurai. All the other Kurosawa films I've seen were set in feudal Japan, so it was quite refreshing to see one set in post-war Japan for a change. While Kurosawa's other movies had a major impact on the samurai genre, Drunken Angel was arguably the earliest example of a Yakuza film.
Unlike the other Kurosawa movies I've seen, I found Drunken Angel gripping from the moment it began. Despite the film being shorter than the other Kurosawa films I've seen as well, the character development was very impressive and the ending was powerful. Being Toshiro Mifune's first major role, he obviously looks younger and hasn't yet developed his unique acting mannerisms. That's a good thing though, as it makes him seem like a completely different person in this movie. His portrayal of the Yakuza thug Matsunaga was impressive and very moving. The star of the movie though is Takashi Shimura (another veteran actor of Kurosawa movies), who plays the forward-thinking Dr. Sanada. His sarcastic dialogues in particular were excellent, without feeling clichéd at all.
I think it's a real shame this movie isn't so famous like Kurosawa's other movies, but I found this film incredibly moving and it is now my second-favourite Kurosawa film of all time after Seven Samurai.
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