Drunken Angel View large image

Film Details

Directed by: Akira Kurosawa

Produced: 1948

Countries & Regions: Japan

DVD Details

Certificate: PG

Studio: British Film Institute

Length: 93 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 25 July 2005

Cat No: BFIVD638

Languages(s): Japanese
Subtitles: English
Interactive Menu
Scene Access
Screen ratio 1:1.33

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Drunken Angel

Cast: Toshiro Mifune , Takashi Shimura , Noriko Sengoku , Reisaburo Yamamoto , Michiyo Kogure , Chieko Nakakita

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Classic early drama from Japanese master Akira Kurosawa which pays homage to the Warner Brothers’ thirties gangster movies. Takashi... Read More




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Classic early drama from Japanese master Akira Kurosawa which pays homage to the Warner Brothers’ thirties gangster movies. Takashi Shimura plays the drunken angel of the title, a doctor working in a devastatingly poor area of immediately-post-war Tokyo. The area is overrun with competing gangsters who have lost most of their power during the American occupation. Toshiro Mifune - in the first leading role that made him a star - plays a handsome young hoodlum who one night comes to the doctor’s surgery with a small bullet wound in his hand. The doctor treats the wound but also diagnoses Mifune as having tuberculosis. The gangster’s arrogance prevents him from acknowledging his illness, but his position within his organisation increasingly comes under threat.

Akira Kurosawa’s eighth feature is a densely atmospheric, supremely accomplished thriller which, characteristic of ‘The Emperor’, acknowledges stylistic influences from Western cinema such as French poetic realism and Italian neorealism whilst remaining firmly grounded in traditional Japanese values and imagery.

In post-war Tokyo, young gangster Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune) enlists the help of a world-weary local doctor Sanada (Takashi Shimura) in an attempt to treat worrying symptoms of tuberculosis. Whilst he is shown to feel a deep compassion for all his patients, Sanada - the ‘Drunken Angel’ of the title – sees in Matsunaga in particular a reflection of his own brash younger self. Doctor and patient engage in a furious battle of wills as Sanada attempts, with some success, to curb Matsunaga’s hard-living ways. That is, until the reappearance of powerful rival gangster Okada (Reizaburo Yamamoto).

Shot through with Kurosawa’s trademark stylistic flair (the dream sequence and climactic fight scene are simply breathtaking) and built around powerful performances from both Shimura and 28-year-old Mifune in his first film for the director, Drunken Angel is quintessential Kurosawa: a perfect example of what would later be called his ‘existential humanism’.

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