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Drunken Angel (The Criterion Collection)

Takashi Shimura , Toshirô Mifune , Akira Kurosawa    PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 42.99
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Frequently Bought Together

Drunken Angel (The Criterion Collection) + The Bad Sleep Well (Criterion Collection) + Stray Dog (The Criterion Collection)
Price For All Three: CDN$ 92.68


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Upon its release in 1948, Drunken Angel was hailed in Japan as Akira Kurosawa's directorial breakthrough, comparable to Kubrick's Paths of Glory in the way it catapulted Kurosawa into a higher level of artistic achievement. Kurosawa himself noted, "In this picture I was finally myself. It was my picture. I was doing it and nobody else."

It is indeed an important, vital film, confidently conceived and expertly executed, illuminating themes that would dominate the finest films in Kurosawa's exceptional career. The setting is a rancid, jerry-built section of a postwar city, where a filthy, disease-ridden pond functions as a physical threat and also as the film's central symbol of decay. It's in this hardscrabble environment that a brash young gangster (Toshiro Mifune, in the role that made him a star) visits an alcoholic doctor (Takashi Shimura) to have a bullet removed from his hand. The doctor discovers that the hot-tempered thug is also doomed by tuberculosis, seen here as the physical manifestation of the gangster's moral decay. The doctor is himself diseased by his drinking, and as these clashing men struggle to make some kind of difference in their pathetic lives (spurned by the return from prison of a ruthless yakuza boss), Kurosawa makes unlikely heroes of them both--men who undergo a personal transformation in a vile and violent world.

Drunken Angel is a transitional film for Japanese cinema and especially for Kurosawa; it offers a vivid glimpse of postwar life (both rotten and restoring), and signals the full blossoming of Kurosawa's talent. And while the title role belongs to Shimura (so memorably poignant in Kurosawa's later masterpiece, Ikiru), the film belongs to the forceful presence of Mifune, whose vitality touches nearly every scene of this timeless and powerful drama. --Jeff Shannon


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4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars First Masterpiece June 20 2000
Format:VHS Tape
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant character study Nov. 1 2001
Format:VHS Tape
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant character study Nov. 1 2001
Format:VHS Tape
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a simple touching, hopeful story June 23 2000
Format:VHS Tape
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A window on postwar Japan Jan. 22 2001
Format:VHS Tape
The period of time after the end of the Second World War, and the beginning of the great economic miracle for Japan was one that is a mystery to most westerners. Living in the poverty left by the war, crime flourished, the black market thrived, and those "angels" like doctors and other professionals not lost in the war took on a new role, often serving the denizens of TB- and infection-ridden neighborhoods for little pay and nearly no respect. The interplay of Kurasawa's favorite pair (Mifune and Shimura) provides a tense and gripping story of life in a nation desperately trying to pull itself out from the throes of war. Filmed in glorious black and white, it retains much of the stark interest of other postwar films, such as Stray Dog, arguably one of Kurosawa's best.
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