Tag Archives: Yoshiko Kuga

Drunken Angel (1948, Kurosawa Akira)

Drunken Angel never hides its sentimentality. The film’s protagonist, an alcoholic doctor working in a slum (Shimura Takashi in a glorious performance), is well aware of his sentimentality. He resents it–Shimura has these great yelling and throwing scenes–but it’s what keeps him going. It also allows director Kurosawa to have intensely sentimental sequences without affecting the tone of the film–sometimes it’s in Hayasaka Fumio’s score, sometimes it’s just how Kurosawa and Kôno Akikazu cut a sequence.

The film’s story has Shimura getting a new patient–Mifune Toshirô’s erratic (similarly hard-drinking) Yakuza neighborhood boss. The two fight, often physically, but form a bond–Mifune’s all subtlety, Shimura’s all noise. When their volumes reverse is when Kurosawa and co-writer Uekusa Keinosuke get in some fantastic character work. Of course, the actors are essential to it. Both of them become clearer and clearer as the film progresses. Even though Drunken Angel has an epical arc to it, it’s very much a character study.

It’s also a setting study–Shimura’s practice is on the edge of a garbage swamp in the slum, Mifune’s favorite night club is just blocks away. In a relatively short run time (under 100 minutes), Kurosawa and Uekusa introduce a large supporting cast, establishing them usually in a few seconds, usually without much dialogue.

As the epical arc goes along its track, the film moves over to Mifune, sort of reintroducing him (without Shimura’s judgment). It’s beautifully executed, as is everything else in the film.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Kurosawa Akira; written by Uekusa Keinosuke and Kurosawa; director of photography, Itô Takeo; edited by Kôno Akikazu; music by Hayasaka Fumio; production designer, Matsuyama Takashi; produced by Motoki Sôjirô; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Shimura Takashi (Sanada), Mifune Toshirô (Matsunaga), Yamamoto Reizaburô (Okada), Kogure Michiyo (Nanae), Nakakita Chieko (Miyo), Shindô Eitarô (Takahama), Sengoku Noriko (Gin), Kasagi Shizuko (Singer), Shimizu Masao (Oyabun) and Kuga Yoshiko (Schoolgirl).


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Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989, Omori Kazuki)

Godzilla vs. Biollante is an odd Godzilla movie. It’s got some cool devices–there’re these Godzilla alarm system, which do a great deal to establish the film’s believability–even if the computer readouts are impossibly old. Stylistically, both in its approach to visually explaining settings and in its music, Biollante really reminds me of Star Trek II. The comparison starts at the beginning of the film and I was still thinking about it at the end. However, though there are a lot of good things about Biollante, it’s excruciatingly boring.

The good stuff is actually a lot of the characters and their actors. There’s the gung ho army commando who’s been out to pasture, played by Minegishi Tôru. Minegishi is a joy to watch. He approaches it with a sense of measured comedy. He never quite looks at the camera and winks, but you’re never sure he’s not going to do it. On the flip–in one of the film’s greatest successes–is the young colonel who’s got the huge responsibility of dealing with Godzilla, played by Takashima Masanobu. While the film’s not interested in being believable beyond it’s own setting, Masanobu makes the character real, which is quite a feat, given how few lines of dialogue the character actually speaks. There’s a similar juxtaposition with the scientists, though only the younger one, played by Kitamura Kunihiko, the ostensible lead, is actually good. The older one is a mad scientist, which is a reasonable segue into the next paragraph.

The bad stuff is mostly–besides how boring it all is to watch–how goofy Godzilla vs. Biollante gets in order to fill a hundred minutes. There’s the ominous Middle Eastern state–which is actually really funny at times, unintentionally I’m sure–the ominous, but better than the Arabs, American corporation, and then there’s the mad scientist. The mad scientist scenes are actually out of a 1950s sci-fi, with thunder and lighting and everything. The film’s effective moments are, not surprisingly, when it deals with either characters or people’s reaction to Godzilla. The special effects are a little slight in parts and the miniature city just doesn’t work, but there are a few great shots in that city scene.

Coming after the 1984 Godzilla, Biollante is a disappointment to be sure, but it does have some “real” scenes in it. Not goofy giant rubber monsters fighting each other, but real scenes of human struggle. It also has the scene where all the people run through the city. I wonder if it’s a status thing for the extras, who must just be regular people there are so many… “Did you see me evacuating the city? Did you see me? I was carrying the giant cactus.”

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Omori Kazuki; screenplay by Omori, based on a story by Kobayashi Shinichirô; director of photography, Kato Katsuhiro; edited by Ikeda Michiko; music by Sugiyama Kôichi; production designer, Ikuno Juichi; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Mitamura Kunihiko (Kirishima Kazuhito), Tanaka Yoshiko (Okouchi Asuka), Takashima Masanobu (Major Kuroki Sho), Takahashi Koji (Dr. Shiragami), Minegishi Tôru (Lieutenant Gondo Goro), Odaka Megumi (Saegusa Miki), Nagashima Toshiyuki (Director Yamamoto Seiichi), Kaneda Ryunosuke (Azuka’s Father), Yuge Yasunori (Prime Minister), Kuga Yoshiko (Prime Minister’s Wife) and Sawaguchi Yasuko (Shiragami Erika).


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