Yoidore tenshi (1948)
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I rarely actually feel sorry for characters, but it's so hard not to feel so for Matsunaga. The movie seems to push all the right buttons for emotional resonance without overdoing it.
And Kurosawa's criticism on yankee capitalist pigs that he managed to slip by the censors is magnificent in all its subtlety.
Humor, tragedy, technical brilliance, gloomy atmosphere and Mifune's forceful performance combine in this brilliant start of Kurosawa's and Mifune's long journey.
Once a beast, always a beast.
You can never change anyone.
I would add Takashi Shimura to this partnership. Nice movie.
You can really tell that Kurosawa made Drunken Angel in the immediate post-war era, not just because locations look bombed out, but because it has that very specific examination of traditional Japanese values (in this case the Yakuza code) as artifacts of a culture that no longer seems relevant. The title character is an alcoholic doctor played by Takashi Shimura, a man who despite his brokenness is devoted to his oath and takes care of kids and gangsters alike, and is unwilling to give up specifically on Toshirō Mifune's TB-stricken Yakuza, this Noir's second focus, just as devoted to his code, and that's what's going to kill him. Mifune's Matsunaga is a symbol for that dead Japan, struggling to find relevance. Dr. Sanada is a broken Japan, forging ahead as best he can, living by a man-made swamp of filth. But one of his patients, a young girl, is the new Japan, bright and hopeful. Sanada's nurse is that part of Japan that pines for what has been lost and hasn't yet accepted what's to come. While Matsunaga's story is cruel Noir, Sanada's manages to be a little more positive, and is the more touching for it. And do I really need to say Kurosawa does great things with light, shadow and music?
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In 5 official lists
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This movie ranks #30 in 101 Gangster Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #92 in Tom Vick's Asian Cinema: A Field Guide
This movie ranks #359 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #426 in TSPDT's 1,000 Noir Films
This movie ranks #438 in The Criterion Collection