This is the year of Noir International. Eddie Muller, the producer & curator of this increasingly successful genre film festival, featured two films from Post World War II Japan. Both of them were directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. There was no clean-up, no tidying of the Post War mess, no candy-coating. The background of black marketing, dysfunctional public heath issues, and lack of basic supplies to support ordinary day-to-day functions are reflected in a pool of stagnant water that becomes a constant & silent reference point in the film DRUNKEN ANGEL.
Takashi Shimura plays an alcoholic physician, who needs to abide by the ancient Western proverb of “Physician heal thyself.” His bedside manner is as atrocious as the background in which he must do his best to patch together the broken people of his broken country. Despite his appearance & mannerisms, he is the Angel of Life, trying to bring life to those who are pretty, but in worse physical & emotional condition than he is. Toshiro Mifune, is caught up in a chaotic world of crime & avarice, soon to be doomed by his inability to follow doctors orders & treat his tuberculosis appropriately. Instead, he drinks, smokes, and slugs his way through an underground culture in order to ‘save face’ and prove his worth. It was a struggle from which he could not emerge victorious–and we see the loss of potential, the potential that Japan so much-needed, go to waste, as he throws his life way in the sludge that had, at that time, become the world of a defeated nation.
YOU TUBE DOUBLE OF DRUNKEN ANGEL:Film 1948 & Song by Lucinda Williams from Car Wheels On A Gravel Road 1998
Stray Dog, 1949-also directed by Akira Kurosawa & Starring Toshiro Mifune.
This film is more closely associated with & influenced by the American Noir experience. The emphasis is less upon the Post War infrastructure, and more upon a rookie cop who has had his gun pickpocketed while on public transit. In that respect, those from New York & San Francisco can more easily relate to the overcrowded conditions & the ‘cell mates’ with which we must endure in close quarters on a daily basis. In keeping with Noir, the rookie cop goes on a search for the person who lifted his heater, only to unintentionally go deeper & deeper into an underground cesspool of crime, vice, passion, and vengeance. The gun in question has recently begged re-examination of the issue/question of do guns kill people or do people use guns to kill people? It’s clear that our love affair with Noir embraces guns, but do we want guns to embrace us? (Remember: “It’s a bitter, little world.”)!
Let’s ask the National Rifle Association to embrace Columbine & ask the perennial question: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
Depart from the Film & Listen to Petula Clark, then continue…
YOU TUBE MONTAGE FROM STRAY DOG-edited for horror mode-1949