A hot-tempered doctor with a drinking problem forms
a strange bond with a gangster that has tuberculosis.
Drunken Angel (1948)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa and Keinosuke Uekusa
Starring Takashi Shimura, Toshirô Mifune, Reizaburô Yamamoto, Michiyo Kogure, Chieko Nakakita
Akira Kurosawa demanded everyone’s attention back in the 40’s because of Drunken Angel. It is the first of 16 director/actor collaborations between him and Toshirô Mifune. This would be like the first time people saw Phil Jackson coach MJ. It was awesome and the Japanese people definitely wanted more. Drunken Angel falls under the Yakuza film genre but it doesn’t follow the typical themes of a Yakuza film. Kurosawa consistently changed the game, but Drunken Angel is the one that kind of started the madness.
Sanada is an alcoholic doctor, a drunken angel who starts treating a patient named Matsunaga for tuberculosis. Matsunaga gets ridiculed by Sanada for his lifestyle choices, which include him being an arrogant gangster. He convinces him to change but that doesn’t last long as another gangster named Okada gets out of prison and the two begin hanging out. Okada is a menacing son of a bitch who used to abuse Sanada’s female assistant and he even steals Matsunaga’s girlfriend. Matsunaga gets fed up and ignores all of the instructions that Sanada gave him to go and confront Okada.
Takashi Shimura plays an annoyed and drunken doctor extremely well and then Toshirô Mifune is doing all kinds of crazy shit with his body as Matsunaga. The supporting cast is very strong as well, including a really creepy performance from Reizaburô Yamamoto as Okada. Drunken Angel uses the setting of post war Japan to suck you into a world that can teach you a thing or two. I really learned about a foreign culture when watching this film and the performances are so enticing that it’s a double win. Fumio Hayasaka had a jam packed 15 year career in making music for films and his work in Drunken Angel is something to behold. I will never be able to get those masterful sounds out of my head.