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Saturday April 19, 2014
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Drunken Angel

 

continued

outskirts of town, to a doctor's office situated mere steps from a bog. Here's the "interesting" half of Kurosawa's equation: most of the action unfolds in the meetings between the curmudgeonly alcoholic physician (Takashi Shimura) and his newest patient, the young gangster Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune, in his first role for Kurosawa), who's also an alcoholic and is dying of tuberculosis. In fact, most of the violence takes place between these two, when Matsunaga beats up on the doctor from time to time for trying to make him change his ways.

The doctor utters the first words of the film, "These mosquitoes are killin' me." Whether real or metaphorical, there are constant references to mosquitoes, leeches, parasites, and disease (typhus, syphilis, and TB). As he attempts to get Matsunaga to leave gang life, the doctor describes mobsters as "rotten, maggot-infested bacteria." It's obvious these are dark times. The opening titles splay across a close-up of the bog, which in black and white looks like gurgling grey mud. (The set designer used straws to blow the bubbles for the close-ups.) It's a recurring image, whether it's a wide vista that stretches out in front of a street performer's lonely guitar playing (another recurrence) or the focal point of Matsunaga's depressed final thoughts.

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