Close Up

3 - 17 December 2015: Drunken Angel


Drunken Angel

Akira Kurosawa
1948 | 94min | B/W | 35mm  

Dr Sanada, the drunken angel of the title, runs a clinic in the slums of Tokyo. When small-time hood Matsunaga comes to his surgery after a gunfight, Sanada diagnoses him with tuberculosis and convinces him to begin treatment. The disillusioned doctor feels that, by saving this young yakuza, he can retrieve a sense of his own lost youth and idealism. Thus they embark on a troubled friendship which is tested by the prejudices of the two and the release from prison of Matsunaga's mobster boss.  

Drunken Angel was the film that gave Toshiro Mifune his first major screen role. The anger and energy of his performance made him a star and he went on to work with Kurosawa in 16 films. Despite being Kurosawa's eighth feature, Drunken Angel was the director's first critical success and the first film in which he felt that he finally discovered himself. He remarked: "In this picture I was finally myself. It was my picture. I was doing it and no one else." The "existential humanism" which made him famous is at the root of this extraordinary tale with the correlation between strength of spirit and physical well-being representing the two forces at work in post-war Japan.

Part of our Akira Kurosawa season