Drunken Angel (1948)

Drunken Angel, like One Wonderful Sunday, is set in a glum, occupied Tokyo.

Unlike One Wonderful Sunday, the two main characters of this film aren’t young lovers, but instead an alcoholic physician and a tuberculosis-stricken gangster. Their relationship, dynamic, and conflict drive most of the movie, and the great performances ensure the movie never feels too lean for being based nearly entirely around their character drama.

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The film uses more visual symbolism than the last few Kurosawa films I watched. The disgusting swamp at the center of the town seems representative of many things, not least the inherent sickness of the times. Kurosawa seems scathing towards both the yakuza and the occupation in this film, although his commentary on the latter is more subtle, no doubt due to censor’s demands at the time of production.

This film seemed to have a lot more on its mind than Kurosawa’s earlier films, and managed to communicate it in a much more strikingly cinematic way. I really enjoyed this one. I give it three and a half drinks of sake, and a jazz dance number.

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