Early Kurosawa

Drunken Angel: Mifune's well nigh unrecognizable as a consumptive gambler; he has the role Takashi Shimura would definitively portray years later in Ikiru, as the man unmoored by his own mortality, and desperate to find purchase in anything, anywhere (in Kurosawa's world, these are the men ready to take the next step).

What makes the film memorable is the sense of spreading malaise Kurosawa evokes from the swamp bubbling away in front of all the characters. It's an obvious metaphor, but Kurosawa presses it with such urgency you can't help but feel a tad itchy--you badly want to wash your hands the moment you leave the theater. That, and Mifune's finale--a bit of slapstick involving whitewash, then an operatic end. The interplay between Mifune and Shimura's very fine--warmer and more detailed than even what you'd see in the later, far longer Seven Samurai.

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