Monday, February 18, 2008

85. Film Review #8a: Criterion Collection Spine #413: Akira Kurosawa: YOIDORE TENSHI (Drunken Angel) (1948) (Part Two)

A detailed analysis of above film. Part Two.

VERTICAL WIPE (top to bottom) #1

Strong filmic effect, transitioning to a new scene.

Matsunaga is coming out of a nightclub (A large wall-sign is behind him -- a royal flush in spades on five oversized playing cards), staggering along with a girl on each arm.

“C’mon, bro,” he calls back, as we see his gang, along with Okada, enter the frame. The camera pulls back to reveal more of the club. We see four young women sitting. The one on the far right says:

"Check out that new guy."

Girl #2: "Makes Matsunaga look like a punk."

Girl #3: "Be careful: He goes for you, he’ll suck your bones dry. A couple of years ago ...” (the camera pushes in on her), “... he sliced up some poor guy’s face right under the railroad bridge."

Girl #4: "Did he die?"

Girl #3: "Unfortunately not. That‘s why he‘s back out now."

Cut to the gangsters' table. Matsunaga's head is hanging down, he is drunk and sick. Okada's men are preparing the drinks. Okada begins to lift his glass.

"After that long stretch in the cooler, every girl is a dish." The camera moves in on Okada. He is smiling, surveying the dance floor. He is about to take a drink when his smile disappears.

Cut to the dance floor. A couple sashays to the right in front of the camera and another couple moves up to occupy most of the frame. It is Nanae and she is dancing with a man in a tuxedo. She looks towards the gangsters, as does her partner.

Cut back to Okada, his glass still next to his lips. He is staring back at her. Cut back to the couple, dancing. Cut back to Okada, his expression getting more severe. Cut back to the couple, Nanae looks upset. Cut back to Okada. Long hold. The song ends. Cut back to the couple. Nanae is looking towards Okada and smiling. She breaks from her partner and walks towards the camera.

Cut to the table, where Nanae's motions in the preceding cut are completed in this one. She moves into the frame left. Matsunaga is still slumped over, half-asleep; Okada stares at her. She takes a fan from her bosom and begins to fan herself, moving over to frame right. The camera follows. She is standing in front of a white wall screen.

Cut to Matsunaga, his head tilted to the side, apparently asleep. One of his gang comes over behind him and pushes him on the shoulders, to wake him up. Matsunaga grunts, the gang man whispers something -- now Matsunaga is awake. He purses his lips and looks at Okada.

"This is Nanae, bro. Treat her well."

Cut to the other side of the white wall screen, which occupies the left half of the frame -- on the right, the dance floor, empty, and a few young women sitting towards the back. Nanae comes into the picture from behind the white screen, smiling. The camera follows her as she moves in front of Okada. The POV is over Okada's left shoulder. She says "Yash-ke" which is translated as

“My pleasure.“ Cut to POV from behind her left. She fills the foreground of frame right and Okada occupies frame left, a bit further back. He stares at her as he throws back a shot.

Cut to Matsunaga, apparently still asleep. The band begins with a loud fanfare. Matsunaga wakes up and the camera pulls back. Nanae is standing in front of him.

“Go dance with the boss,” he screams above the music. Okada gets up to dance with Nanae. Cut to Nanae, front view, smiling and beginning to dance.

[Kurosawa really loved American films in general, and certain directors in particular (Capra and Ford are the two most frequently cited). He seemed to have a fascination for this type of cabaret show which was so popular in America (and Japan) after the war.]

Cut to a Japanese woman, dressed in a western gown with some long feathers coming out of the back of her head (Shizuko Kasagi). She is singing. The camera zooms in on her.

"Wow-oo-wow-oo-wow-ooo." This number is called "Jungle Boogie."

Cut to the guitar player in the band. He is smiling. The brass imitate the sound she just made.

The next cut is rather clever. The camera begins a pan to the right -- capturing the other musicians (a sax player) for just a moment -- then it pulls back to reveal the singer.

The words to the song were never translated in previous versions. Criterion corrects this:

“...I’m a she-panther/
I was born/
In a southern land/
Where volcanoes blow fire/
On a night lit red by the moon/
In the jungle/
I had a love so wild/
Made my very bones swoon...”

During the song there are cuts back and forth between Okada and Nanae dancing and the singer. Cut to Matsunaga.

“Hey, let’s dance,” he shouts to a girl who now comes into the frame.

“Are you okay?”

“Gotta act lively to stay well.” He stretches out his arm and comes with a girl. They move to the dance floor. Despite the fact that he has been nearly completely unconscious for the past 10 minutes, he is now doing all kinds of 40's dancing moves with this lady! Soon they are in the center of the dance floor, just like Fred and Ginger! Cut to the singer.

Cut to Matsunaga from behind, wiggling his ass. Cut to the singer again. Cut to Matsunaga and the girl. He is wide awake now. Cut back to the singer. Cut back to Matsunaga, dancing away. Quicker cuts now back to the singer...

...to Matsunaga ...singer ...Matsunaga ...singer ...and finally the couple, dancing...

During all this, the song continues:

“...I was so wild with love/
In the jungle/
I left my panther skin/
On a rubber tree/"

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #4

...Medium shot of the doctor, on the left, slapping Matsunaga, on the right, across the face. Miyo stands behind them in the middle.

"You idiot! Where were you last night?" Matsunaga moves to beat up the doctor again. Miyo moves between them to try to stop a fight.

“Doctor.”

Sanada ignores her and screams at Matsunaga:

“You still stink of booze! I’m not a veterinarian! My patients don’t need leashes tied around their necks!” At this Matsunaga lunges at him. Miyo intervenes.

“Get out! I never want to see your damned face again!" Matsunaga turns to leave, as Miyo follows him:

“Matsunaga-san!“ As before, the doctor begins to hurl things at him as he even though he is already gone. Miyo, as usual, tries to restrain him.

“Doctor, stop!”

Cut to outside. Matsunaga is walking briskly. He stops a young student on the street and grabs him by the collar:

"Hey, better cool it!" he yells, even though the kid has not said a word. He punches and slaps him.

"Jerk!" He walks away. Hold on the kid.

Cut to the doctor, looking out of his window at the pond. Children are running on the other side. He throws something out the window (no wonder the pond was so scummy!). Cut to a close-up of the pond. Fade to black. Music stops.

Up on the nearly the exact same shot of the pond. After a second, we hear wind blowing, and see the water being whipped forward...

Cut to a medium-long shot of a bandstand. The musicians are warming up. Women and men are walking by in groups. The camera pans over to a group of women.

"Say. Who gets the first dance with Nanae?" one of them asks.

"Idiot, isn’t it obvious? Not the one whose luck is shot.”

Cut to Okada's table. He is sitting with Matsunaga and Nanae, smoking. A waiter brings over a bottle of booze. She serves the two men and hands the bottle back to the waiter.

The music starts. Matsunaga rises, quickly followed by Okada. Nanae rises. She is in the middle of the frame with Matsunaga on the left and Okada on the right.

The men press in on her. She appears to be about to choose Matsunaga, but at the last moment chooses Okada. They go out to the dance floor. Matsunaga makes a face. He sits. Close-up. He takes a drag on his cigarette. This causes him to cough several times, but Kurosawa puts no cough on the soundtrack -- we hear only the music from the band playing. He throws his cigarette to the ground.

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #5

A large crowd. The camera slowly pans to the left until we find Matsunaga and Okada on the floor, gambling. Nanae sits between them from the side view of the camera.

"Odds!" Matsunaga throws down a pile of bills.

Okada tosses his wad of money down: “Game.”

Matsunaga lifts up the dice cup. Okada has won.

Immediately, Matsunaga again bets: "Odds." The camera pushes in on Nanae, observing.

"A hundred grand!"

Nanae looks over at Okada. Cut to him, smoking. He smiles.

"Game." The camera pans to the left. Nanae, smiling, looks at Matsunaga. The camera comes to rest on him. He is upset. The camera pulls back. Okada is taking a large pile of money from Matsunaga.

"Front me some dough,” he asks the banker.

"No more."

“One last bet.”

“You’re out of luck.”

"Shut up! Front me a little!” The banker hands him a large stack of bills.

"Odd! 100,000!" shouts Matsunaga. Okada pushes a large stack of money into the pot. Matsunaga lifts up the gambling device. He has lost. Okada pulls all the money to his pile. He throws the banker a few more bills. Matsunaga sounds like he is crying, but he is coughing too, and as he slumps forward, Nanae and the rest realize that he is actually sick. Close on Nanae, upset.

“What happened? What’s wrong?”

DIAGONAL WIPE (top left to bottom right) #2

His gang buddies are knocking on the doctor's door.

"Emergency patient," he shouts...

We hear Miyo and the lights go on.

“Yes, coming.”

Cut to doctor, waking up.

“What half-dead fool needs me at this hour of the night?" Miyo appears at his doorway.

"Doctor, Matsunaga’s been coughing up blood." Close on doctor. His look of concern betrays his next sentence:

"Serves him right! Let him die! I’m staying here. Not for that fool" Miyo is preparing his clothes.

"I already told you. I’m not going." he shouts at her. She makes a face, but we can see she is ignoring him.

"I absolutely refuse, absolutely," he shouts again, pouring himself some tea...

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #6

We are in Matsunaga's room. The doctor is preparing an injection. He throws something to one gang man; something that was on the bed to another, and he sits down and prepares to give Matsunaga an injection.

Doctor to one of the flunkies::

"Don't stand around like idiots. Bring me some water." The men are still for a moment, not used to taking orders from this guy. But in a moment, they both turn to leave.

“That’s a one-man job.” (he turns to the fat guy): “...hey Fatso! Some ice and an ice pack.”

"In the middle of the night?" Fatso replies.

"What do you mean? You guys always get what you ask for." Fatso turns to leave.

"Hang on.“ (Fatso turns around) “...This is a woman’s place. Where is she?

“She got the jitters, and went to stay with a friend.”

“Hmmph. Must be some piece of work, like the rest of you.”

Fatso is smelling something Nanae's things hanging on the clothes rack.

"Don’t just stand there. Step on it.“ He doesn't budge. The doctor throws something at him:

"Go get it!"

He leaves. The doctor looks like he is feeling Matsunaga's forehead. This action is concluded, as usual, in the

Close-up on the doctor and patient. The doctor walks over to the dressing table. There are mirrors (put to good use in this shot). He looks at himself, rubbing his hand over his beard. He looks at a brush. He opens a music box. He pulls on a rod, which operates some shadow puppets.

Cut to the shadow puppets on the wall next to Matsunaga. This gets his attention -- he wakes up and sees the shadow puppets.

The doctor moves back to his bedside.

"Don't you worry now. It’s better that you coughed up blood. You’ll finally have to look after yourself.“ Matsunaga looks like he wants to say something...

"Don't talk!" The doctor swabs Matsunaga's face. Sad music cue.

"Sleep well. Sleep and dream about your childhood."

Cut to a close-up on Matsunaga. He turns his head to sleep. The music swells.

Rough dissolve to outside, an overhead shot. The doctor is walking by the pond. The camera gently dollies down to street level (this is a lovely shot) and as the doctor is turning to walk on a bridge. A woman, in a hurry, bumps into him. It is Miyo.

"What’s wrong? What happened?"

"I saw him."

"Who? Okada?" Miyo nods her head affirmatively.

"Where? Did he see you?" Cut to a close, slightly overhead shot of the two...

"No. At the market. But he didn‘t seem to notice me. He was with some dance hall girl. I‘m sure it was him, though. " A loud sound. She looks up. So does the camera. It is the train, roaring on the tracks overhead.

Another rough cut/dissolve to Matsunaga in a patch of light, waking up. He looks up and the camera does as well. Nanae is taking her furs from the closet. Cut to a POV from inside the closet looking at Nanae. She looks around and is satisfied she has everything. She walks away.

Cut back to her. She throws the coats into her pile -- close on that for a moment. Cut back to her, looking down, the camera follows her as she bends down. It remains on the four or five pairs of shoes. She has grabbed a few pairs. Cut to the pile -- the shoes land on top of the coat.

Cut to a view of her walking, camera at leg level. A glass falls. Cut to close-up on Nanae. She is looking down at the glass. She looks at Matsunaga. Cut to him. Cut to the dressing table. She picks up some boxes and opens the music box.

"What are you up to?" we hear Matsunaga ask. He coughs a few times. Cut to a POV from his bed, looking up at her.

"Something’s come up. I’ll be gone for awhile." Cut to overhead shot close-up of Matsunaga. He says nothing. Cut to Nanae.

"I’d really rather stay. It’s just bad timing, that’s all." Back to Matsunaga. He still says nothing. Cut back to Nanae.

"It's not my fault. Don't look at me like that." Back to Matsunaga, still silent. Back to Nanae:

"I meant to take time off, to look after you. But I got a great offer out of the blue." Cut to Matsunaga. Back to Nanae:

"It’s just too good to pass up..."

“You’ll be gone awhile, then?” Cut on Nanae, close:

"That’s right.” She begins to get up; the action is concluded in the next shot. Cut to medium shot. She comes over and hovers over him in bed.

"It’s terrible, but I don’t have any choice." Cut to him:

"Kiss me goodbye, then." Cut to her, close. She looks uncomfortable. She stands up. Cut to medium shot of both.

"You’re that scared of getting sick?" he asks.

"No, I‘m not ... it‘s just ..." Suddenly he grabs her and pulls her down to the bed.

“Then come here.” They struggle. Cut to a shot of her feet, kicking...

[This next shot is marvelous] Cut to the thing that holds the rod that operates the shadow puppets. The rod is moving slowly back and forth. [A great symbolic image for all the string-pulling going on in the film...]

Close-up cut to Nanae, who has broken free, and is standing up. She is wiping her mouth, and spitting. Cut to him. He begins to smile. He begins to rise out of bed. Cut to a longer shot from leg level -- behind Nanae. Matsunaga has completed the previous action of getting out of bed.

(Sarcastically): "Thanks for lookin’ after me. I’ll never forget it," he says sarcastically. He begins to cough and quickly sits back down on the bed. He throws something in the pan of water on a table....

Close cut to Nanae, concerned and/or frightened...

Cut to a new scene, outside the doctor's office. On the left and right are two gang men, in the center is Miyo, handing something to the man on the left:

"Make him take this every four hours..."

Gang man: "What’ll we feed him, sis?" She hands him a paper.

"Take this to City Hall and you can get milk. He should drink it cold."

Gang man on the right has been staring at her. “Don‘t I know you from somewhere else, sis?" Miyo, ignoring that, and retreating:

"Goodbye. The doctor will stop in on his way home." She turns around and goes back into the office. The two gang men turn to face each other, then turn to face the camera and leave, walking straight towards the camera...

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the right) #1

The doctor, in a few choppy cuts, is walking up a stairway, POV from behind him. He sees the gang men. They are eating something.

"You jerks!" he yells. "I said keep an eye on him"

Gang man: "But the patient’s gone.“

“What!“

“Went out to get medicine, and he took off. " Nanae comes out of a nearby room. The doctor turns and asks her:

"Hey, do you know where Matsunaga went?"

"How would I know? she replies, handing each flunky one half of Matsunaga's striped pajamas, which they handle gingerly.

Cut to the doctor entering the room. Cut to a reverse shot from outside the window, looking in. Cut back to the doctor, standing in the doorway. Nanae squeezes past him and tries to close the door. Sanada pushes it open and forces his way in.

"You threw him out?"

"How dare you! Who are you, anyway?"

"What the hell?" he yells at her.

“This is my place. I’ll holler for help.”

“Heartless bitch!”

“What’s going on?” This is off-camera, but in a flash Okada appears in the doorway -- as usual, framed beautifully by Kurosawa, in a shot taken again from outside the room, looking in -- this time through three openings in the bars of the window frame. The doctor is on the left, Okada framed perfectly between the center bars, and Nanae on the right. She speaks to Okada:

"This guy’s saying all kind of nasty things ...“ Nanae has moved toward the door and Okada, but is still framed between the bars on the right.

“...Get rid of him, okay?”

We see Okada begin to advance on Sanada, but Kurosawa quickly cuts to the initial shot looking down the hallway to the door, as Okada enters it.

[This little trick that Kurosawa learned from Ford and others, is simply a delightful tool for breaking up simple actions into separate filmic components. He does it a lot!]

Matsunaga’s two flunkies look at each other. The next thing, the doctor is flying out the door and landing hard on the floor. [It is again obvious that no stunt man was used. Poor Shimura.. He must have had several bruises to show for the filming of this movie!]

He picks himself off the floor and begins to leave.

"Shit. Should’ve known. Whore." The flunkies block his path. One of them:

"Hang on." The punk on the left gives the doctor a shove. Okada comes out and speaks:

"Got a question for you ...” Sanada turns to face Okada.

“... Before they sent me up, you were looking after a girl, weren’t you?” Sanada adjusts his hat, but doesn’t respond.

“Know what happened to her?”

“How should I know? Can’t keep track of ‘em all.”

“Miyo?”

“Can’t help you.” Sanada pushes his way past the two punks. A long pause and then both gangsters click their fingers and Fatso, smiling, says:

"I remember now!” Okada turns around. Ominous music begins. I want to say something about Hayasaka's music during this section ... here(*).

Cut to the pond. A little rag doll lies in the filth. Cut to a shot from further back. We see Matsunaga (from behind) leaning against a pole. The doctor walks into the shot -- he taps the him on the right shoulder.

Cut to reverse angle -- the doctor sits on a metal railing. Matsunaga, frame right:

"Don’t be mad at me, old man. I couldn’t stand being cooped up in that tiny box.”

“I know that. Let Okada have that filthy cathouse, lock stock and barrel." The doctor rises. Cut to a shot from ground level looking up at the doctor and Matsunaga.

"But it’s tough on you. Now, listen to me. Your lungs are like that swamp there ...” (motions with his head)

Cut to a POV behind the two men. Someone is dumping garbage into the pond. Cut to a close-up of the garbage. Back to the ground level shot looking up. The doctor:

"It‘s pointless if we only look after your lungs. You’re surrounded by a bunch of scum. Rotten, maggot-infested bacteria. Until you break free of that, there’s no hope for you.“ Axial cut to Matsunaga.

Cut to the rag doll and a sandal in the pond. Dissolve to Matsunaga again, still from below, but closer. Another dissolve back to the doll and sandal. The image dissolves to

The "dream sequence" --

A plain white casket on a beach. The foamy waves wash up all around it.

A dissolve to a different angle, from behind. Matsunaga, dressed in black with a white scarf, now appears, running towards the casket with an ax in his hand. Putting his left foot on the casket, he brings down the ax but it never reaches the casket in this cut...
Another dissolve to a close-up. Matsunaga is still swinging the ax... Dissolve to a slightly longer shot -- this time we see him hit the casket with the ax...

Back to the closer shot ... Back to the longer shot ...

Dissolve to a new view -- the previous cut ended with the ax landing on the coffin. In this shot, we a "different" Matsunaga, dressed in a regular shirt and pants. He is in the coffin. The top is off, except for two boards, which go flying in each direction, nicely simulating the box being chopped open, by the actions in the end of the last cut. Matsunaga #2 looks up in terror!

Dissolve to a close-up of the "other" Matsunaga (#1), with the white scarf, whose eyes are also filled with terror, from the POV of the Matsunaga #2 in the coffin! He reels backwards, leaving only white space...

...coming up from this white space to Matsunaga #1, The timing of the cuts in this sequence is interesting to note:

We'll call him Matsunaga #1 (in black with a white scarf). He is running in slow motion on the beach, looking back at Matsunaga #2 who is chasing him [and running much faster than #1!] (about 3 seconds)

Dissolve to Matsunaga #2 (from the coffin) (about 1 second)...

Dissolve to Matsunaga #1 (about 2 seconds)...

Dissolve to Matsunaga #2 (less than 1 second)...

Dissolve to Matsunaga #1 (about 2 seconds)...

Dissolve to Matsunaga #2 (about 1 second)...

Dissolve to Matsunaga #1 (about 4 seconds)...

Dissolve to Matsunaga #2 (about 1 second)..

Dissolve to #1 for about 8 seconds. Then, in a gorgeous double exposure, #2 appears (ghost-like) frame right -- he looks like he is just inches away from catching his double, #1.

What follows is one of Kurosawa's best "special effects" [up to this point, chronologically] -- the above double exposure remains for a few seconds after the next cut begins:
Matsunaga is waking up! But as this cut begins, the double exposure still is taking up most of the frame -- you can barely see Matsunaga's face in the very bottom of the frame at first! Then suddenly, you can see him waking up, the double exposure still visible. As in a nightmare, his head goes up and down and the frame turns to black. He sits up, staring directly into the camera.

(*)About Hayasaka's music for the past three minutes...

After the gangsters remember where they have seen Miyo before, the music becomes very somber and foreboding for just long enough so that we get the idea that Miyo is in danger [and, again, we can see that Kurosawa probably spoke the truth when he implied, as he did in One Wonderful Sunday -- that the best musicians were probably working in the {lucrative black market-controlled} cafes ... this orchestra is -- well, the intonation is a bit off. But we can use our imagination].

The following action between the doctor and gangster required a different dynamic, and the music begins to change. It is subdued for their conversation. An English Horn begins a germ of a melodic cell. The mood is sad, as the doctor is likening Matsunaga's condition to that of the scummy pond ... right before the dream sequence is about to begin -- a soft major cadence; then Hayasaka develops the English Horn germ into a melody, in the minor. The music gets weirder as the gangster chops at his own casket -- and when the beach chase begins, the composer begins manipulating the tape recording of his orchestra (playing it backwards) and combining that with the forwards orchestra -- all coming to a head when Matsunaga wakes up -- on a crashing diminished chord! -- great music for 1948 or any time! [only not performed so well!]

Matsunaga looks around the room. His eyes come to rest once, then twice -- the camera pans to the left; it comes to rest on the old servant, who is peeking out from behind a door, continues to the left and again stops, as did Matsunaga's eyes, on Miyo, who is kneeling in the doorway with her head down.

[This next scene must have been very powerful to a Japanese audience in 1948, who were just getting used to the idea of “women’s rights.”]

We hear the doctor, off-camera, shouting:

"Hmmph. I said she's not here!"

Okada, also off-camera: “Stop pretending.”

The camera comes to rest on Miyo, sitting, head bowed. Okada, still off-camera:

"I’ve got two guys who swear they saw her here.”

Now the camera cuts to the scene. The two flunky gangsters are at left and right frame -- Okada and the doctor in the middle.

"Right, boys?" he asks his flunkies. They don't respond.

"Speak up.”

The skinny punk: “That’s right, sir. We saw her with our own eyes, right?" he asks Fatso, who nods curtly.

Doctor, loudly: "Must be the wrong girl.”

Okada: "Cut the crap." Cut to a reverse angle, right behind the doctor.

"You keep that wench, I mean, my lady, from me, you’ll pay for it."

"Just a minute, now." says Sanada, sitting down.

"You’ve got it all wrong, mister. Times have changed since you went in the cooler. Your feudalistic ways don’t fly now.” (We sense that Sanada has little fear of getting beaten up again...]

Quick close cut on the flunkies and Okada.

Skinny punk: “Asshole!”

Reverse angle. “Want me to spell it out for you?” (he points at Okada) “ ... It doesn‘t matter what you call her. She’s got to want you. Ever heard of equality?”

Skinny punk: “Idiot.”

Sanada: “Get out!” (emboldened) “ ... just suppose that woman was here. I don’t see her running out to see you, do you?”

A long pause, as Okada slowly advances on the doctor, threatening...

"Are you asking to die?" He is reaching into his coat.

"Cut the crap. Running off at the mouth like a real killer. Hmmph. I’ve killed more people than you.“

“You got nerve.” This seems to amuse Okada, but he steps forward anyway, ready to do battle...his eyes are diverted to the door, however

Cut to reverse angle again -- Matsunaga staggers through the door. The doctor yells at him:

"Oh, no, you don’t. This is no place for a sick man"

Okada (to Matsunaga): "What the hell are you doing here?"

Matsunaga, dropping to his knees: "I owe this doctor everything. I know it’s not my place, but...“

Doctor: "Hmmph. Take your debt and stuff it. Go back to bed and stay there." The doctor tries to grab his arm. He breaks away. He speaks to Okada:

"Brother, please let it go tonight. I’ll stake my life on this man." He begins to cough.

Doctor: "Better watch it. You won‘t have anything left to stake. Drop the feudalistic loyalty crap. Makes me sick.” He holds him from behind and tries to take him in the door. He again breaks away. The doctor turns around and yells

“Grandma ... come and get this patient.“ He then turns to Okada

“If you don’t want to kill your sworn brother, get the hell out of here!” We can talk tomorrow.”

Cut to a close overhead shot of Miyo, her head still bowed.

Dissolve to a head-on shot of the Grandma, Miyo and the doctor at the table, a large blanket draped over their arms and legs. Sanada is emptying the saké bottle into his glass. He laughs.

"Okada finally showed up."

"It’s so frightening," the old lady says.

"Nothing to be afraid of. I’ll contact the police tomorrow. Don’t worry." A black shadow fills the frame. It is Matsunaga, sitting up.

"I’ll settle this thing. Tell the cops and I lose face."

"Fool! Sick men and babies don’t have face. You shut up and go to bed." Reverse angle:

"No, I‘ll go see the big boss tomorrow and talk to him about it. He’s always been very generous to me.”

“Of course he was, while you were raking in the dough. But now he’ll prefer Okada.” Close on Matsunaga.

“No, he won’t. Our code goes deeper than guys like Okada We believe in honor and loyalty.”

“More like a peace treaty between thieves. Dough is what counts.”

“Pile of crap.” He coughs.

“Didn’t I tell you to simmer down and get some rest?” He moves to Matsunaga and settles him down as the camera cuts to

A two-shot of Grandma and Miyo, head bowed.

Grandma: “But what if they want to pay us back for turning them in? Miyo raises her head.

Miyo: “If only I could make myself go back to him.” Cut to Doctor:

"Idiot!" Close on Miyo:

"But what if..."

"Spineless. Men like him count on just that kind of weakness. Yakuza power is nothing but a myth." He looks down at Matsunaga as he says the next part. The camera pans down to the gangster as he speaks.

"They’re just good at scaring people. Okay, now it’s bedtime." Close on Matsunaga as he contemplates this last. Dissolve to black.

Up on the pond, again -- it looks like snow. Cut to the doctor and Miyo. She is helping him into a warm overcoat as he speaks.

"Listen now. You stay right where you are. Leave Okada to me. Just going out to sterilize this contaminated town. I’ll just have a chat with the cops." As he is leaving, the camera, rather than following him, trails back to Matsunaga in bed. He is staring after him.

The doctor is putting his shoes on, Miyo behind him.

"You seemed pretty restless last night. Don't even think of going back to Okada." He is putting gloves on.

"Human sacrifice has gone out of style. Japanese make so many pointless sacrifices." He stands to go -- but first turns and yells back at Matsunaga:

"Don’t you dare get out of bed. You get up today, and I’m done with you." He leaves. The camera lingers on Miyo for a long 15 seconds, her head still bowed. Finally, she lifts her head and rises, captured in both this cut and

Cut to reverse angle -- Matsunaga, fully dressed, is coming through the other door.

"You mustn't, no." she says, running to keep him from leaving.

"I can't let him go to the cops."

"But in your condition."

"A Yakuza never worries about himself." He walks directly towards the camera, as though it were a mirror. He is fixing a scarf.

"You really gain face when you put your life on the line." He begins to collapse. She tries to get him back in bed.

“You can’t.” He pushes her aside.

Cut to inside. Miyo is trying to break free.

“You can’t, Matsunaga-san.” He locks her in the office. “You can’t!”

"It won’t be long. Grandma will be back soon"

“Matsunaga-san!” He walks around the other side of the room on the outside to a small open window:

"You don't understand our code of honor," he tells her from the opening. She runs over and yells at him as he walks away...

“Matsunaga-san! Matsunaga-san!”

Dissolve to a slight overhead shot of Okada, his boss and their women around a gambling table -- shuffling tiles. A dog barks. Everyone around the table eyes one another. Cut to the outside. Matsunaga is walking up the path. His flunkies open a door.

Skinny: “Hey, bro.”

"Is the big boss here?"

"Yeah, in the annex." Matsunaga turns around and walks away. Close on the two flunkies at the doorway, watching him leave.

Cut to the "annex" -- he sits at the door and begins to remove his shoes. We overhear their conversation as the camera remains fixed on a stunned Matsunaga. It is Okada’s voice:

"...Boss, why’d you let an amateur like Matsunaga? I just don’t get your thinking...”

Now Kurosawa cuts to the bosses inside. Okada continues:

“Why’d you let that deadbeat run my turf?”

Big boss (Masao Shimizu): “You’ll learn. Got to look after the ones whose lungs are shot.” Cut to Matsunaga. He seems pleased to hear this. Cut back inside.

“Once they get to coughing up blood, they’re wild cards. They come in pretty handy.” (short pause) “...sooner or later, the Kitajima gang’s gonna go after that turf. That’s when we’ll toss Matsunaga in their path.”

Okada nods. “I get it.”

Big boss: “He hasn’t got long to live. It’s the perfect way to go ... after that, it’s all yours. I’m quiet about it, but I’m always looking ahead.”

Matsunaga walks in. They are startled. We see them looking at him at leg level from behind. As DR points out:

"... He walks onto the tatami with his shoes on -- a sure sign a Japanese is upset -- and at that moment it is decided that he and his ex-boss will have it out. The continuity of this sequence makes entirely clear that the gangster...is out to redeem his life." [DR, p. 51]

Cut to a close-up of Matsunaga, breathing heavily. Cut to big boss, over Okada's right shoulder.

"What the hell are you up to?" Matsunaga starts to bow politely.

Cut to a new angle -- Okada, Matsunaga, in the rear, and Nanae, sneering with contempt at her ex-boyfriend.

Okada: "Boss, you’ve got to knock some sense into this punk." The camera pans left to the big boss who takes out his wallet.

"Not so fast, now. Guess the fever went to his head." He throws a stack of bills at Matsunaga's feet which we then see in close-up.

“There, go buy yourself some eggs.” Cut to Matsunaga at head level, close-up. He is staring down at the money. He sniffles and coughs -- looks at the other people, clutches his coat, and, without taking any of the money, runs out the door.

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #7

The “Happy Market” sign, next to a speaker, blaring out "The Cuckoo Waltz."

[This scene is renown amongst Kurosawa fans for several reasons. First, it is impossibly optimistic and happy, as the half-dead Matsunaga wanders through the market. Kurosawa stated that both he and his composer, Fumio Hayasaka, came up with the idea for this particular song in this particular scene independently.

Secondly, Kurosawa wrote about how the “temped” music matched perfectly with the filmed scene the first time he put them together in editing. It gave him confidence to trust his instincts as far as combining music and film was concerned -- an important key to his great success as a filmmaker...]

Cut to Matsunaga, walking down a crowded alley. Cut closer...he is bumped and jostled. Cut to Gin, inside the bar, boiling water...she hears a noise -- her head turns. She sees something.

Cut to the bar. Matsunaga sits down -- she comes out from the curtains:

"Matsunaga-san! What kind of stunt did you pull? They‘re all riled up. Big boss is furious."

Matsunaga: "Gimme a drink."

Gin: "No, you can‘t. Besides, I heard you were even coughing up blood. You‘re having a run of bad luck."

Matsunaga, screaming: "Shut up and give me a drink!"

“Oh, well ...“ (Gin gets him one) ...”but just one." He throws it back and begins to cough violently. Cut closer, bar level. Gin looks pained. She speaks to him, his head is bowed:

"When someone like you is down, I feel so bad I can hardly stand it. You know, I’ve always thought ... that you’re not cut out for this life. This is the perfect chance for you to leave it all behind, and go out to the countryside somewhere, where you can get well. I’ve been thinking about going back home. I’m sick and tired of this place, too ...” She takes the rest of his drink and drinks it herself. She comes around the bar to the other side and sits next to him.

"Why don’t you come with me? It‘s a poky little town, but there‘s a beautiful stream running along the road.” She smiles at this. He shakes his head and reaches for the liquor bottle.

"Oh, no you don’t," she says, snatching it away. She puts her arm on his neck.

"But seriously, why don’t you come with me? You won’t have to struggle. My father has a ranch on the outskirts of town. You’d be fine in no time if you went there. Come, won’t you? In any case, you’ve got to get out of here" The door opens and the bar owner walks in. Gin sits up properly. The camera pulls back slightly. The owner eyes Matsunaga and he eyes the owner. The owner walks back behind the curtain and Gin follows.

"What are you doing? The boss made it clear he’s out."

Gin: "Then, I'll pay."

“What?” Matsunaga hears this.

"What are you two up to?" You can just see him begin to stand up at the end of this cut.

Cut back to the bar. He finishes the action of standing up. Gin comes out to restrain him.

"Hey, you jerk!"

Gin: “No, no, it doesn’t matter.”

"Well, I don't like it." Cut to a low angle -- Gin is trying to calm him down.

“Don't let it bother you, please." He looks at her. Cut to outside. The door opens. He comes out.

Gin: "Where are you staying now?"

"At Dr. Sanada’s."

[Notice how it’s now “Dr. Sanada” as opposed to the “quack” or “idiot.”]

"Oh, I know ... that's good." She is at the door. "I'll come see you tonight to talk it over. In your condition, you‘ve got to keep your temper.” He looks at her and leaves. She watches him go, and returns inside the bar.

Cut to the alley again -- Matsunaga walking towards camera...he walks past, and down another lane. He stops at the flower shop and takes a flower. A girl from the shop runs after him.

"Excuse me.” Cut to reverse angle.

“Excuse me. Can you give me 30 yen," she stammers. " ... he says you have to pay." The flower-shop man is standing in the doorway of the shop watching. Matsunaga turns around and heads back for the flower shop. The man runs inside.

Cut to POV in front of the shop. Matsunaga heads in. He advances on him.

“Asshole!“ He grabs the man and backs him up against the flowers and is hitting him.

"What're you doing! I’m just following the big boss’s orders!" he screams. Matsunaga grabs him by the collar. Matsunaga is still hitting him.

“What?”

"As of today, this is Okada's turf," the man gulps out. "He wants us to ignore you."

[From that, to Sanada’s next line is a stretch of four minutes with no dialogue whatsoever!]

Matsunaga lets go of the man's collar [who realistically drops backwards into the flowers]. Cut to close-up. Matsunaga is stunned. Cut back to the original POV in front of the shop. The flower man takes advantage of Matsunaga's stupor to escape. He runs out of the store. The Cuckoo Waltz ends. The flowers start to flutter in the wind as if to foreshadow the next cut and the image of Matsunaga is

Dissolved into the pond (again). We hear the wind which we saw in the previous cut -- and it ripples the water in the pond.

Dissolve to Okada, sitting at a table, playing the guitar. Nanae comes up from behind him and puts her arms around him. She pulls out his knife and look at it and throws it over...

Close-up ...on a couch. Cut to Matsunaga at the door in the hallway. He begins to open the door.

Cut to Matsunaga opening the door from POV at the far end of the hallway (a painter's scaffolding and ladders can be seen in the hallway) -- we see him go in. The guitar music stops. Hold on the empty hallway for about eight seconds. Then we see Nanae hurrying out the door. She runs down the hallway, tripping over a bucket of paint as she comes towards the camera.

Cut to inside the room, POV from behind Matsunaga. Okada puts the guitar down, his eyes locked on Matsunaga. His eyes follow Matsunaga's hand to his pocket. Whatever he has in his hand has caused Okada to gasp softly. Matsunaga closes in on him. Okada backs up suddenly.

ECU on Matsunaga's hand. The switchblade is opened. Matsunaga holds it tightly in his hand. Cut to a slightly different angle, still ECU...

Cut to POV behind Matsunaga, the knife in his hand, advancing on Okada. Okada is trapped, his eyes dart around. As Matsunaga advances on him

Cut to the three-paneled mirror. We see three Matsunagas advancing on Okada.

Cut to POV behind Okada -- he is trying to feel for the knife she threw before...

Cut back to the mirrors.

Back to POV behind Matsunaga. Okada is near a small stool with Nanae's shoes on it -- he feels around again. He grabs a shoe. [hey, anything for a weapon in a tough situation, right?]

Cut to a new POV shooting into another mirror. Okada is coming around and he throws the shoe at the mirror, breaking it...

Cut to Okada, now backed up against a wall...

Cut to a low-angle shot on Matsunaga...

Cut back to Okada again...

Cut back to Matsunaga. At the very end of this shot, his eyes bulge as if he's about to kill Okada...

Cut to Okada, looking prepared for the knife...

Cut to Matsunaga for about 11 frames...

Cut to Okada, about 14 frames -- he is moving out of the way...

Cut to Matsunaga, about 12 frames...

Cut to -- an empty space -- about to be filled...by Okada, looking wounded...

Cut to Matsunaga...pause -- he covers his mouth with his hand...

Cut to the floor. Large drops of dark liquid (blood) fall to the ground in splotches...

Cut back to Matsunaga, still covering his mouth.

Cut to Okada, disbelieving...

Cut to Matsunaga, staring at his (bloody) hand, in disbelief. Again, he starts to cough...

Cut to a longer shot, Okada, seeing his chance, comes over and kicks Matsunaga hard in the leg, which causes him to fall forward...

Cut to the ground -- the knife falls upon it. (ECU)

Cut to a medium shot -- Okada is breaking something over Matsunaga's head. Whatever it was, pops out all over the room nicely, and causes Matsunaga to fall to the floor...

Cut to a ground-level shot now. The men struggle on the floor. Finally, with his legs,
Matsunaga pushes Okada off.

Unfortunately for Matsunaga, he has unknowingly pushed Okada right onto the couch where Nanae threw the knife. He quickly feels around, locates it, takes it out of its sheath, and has it in his hand. Matsunaga backs up.

Close-up on Matsunaga. Okada quickly backs him up...

Cut to an even closer shot on Matsunaga. He sits on a crate next to a closet. He falls down. Okada has him pinned. He slides down to the floor, a pitiful, Christ-like figure [Hayasaka's music reinforces this image].

Cut to Sanada at a roadside stand selling rice balls. (The music continues.)

"I hope they’re fresh?" asks Sanada.

"They’re for a patient." He picks out several.

Cut to the hallway, POV in front of Okada's doorway. People are staring down towards the camera. A woman with brooms in her hands is peeking over. She starts to run away...the camera pans downward to reveal Matsunaga crawling out of the doorway. He staggers down the hallway -- the camera follows him. He grabs and holds onto the painters' scaffolding. He turns and throws a can of white paint at his attacker.

[Hayasaka's score stops here. A fantastic decision on the part of the filmmaker. Most composers would cherish this action space more than any other. But the silence during this scene is wonderfully appropriate. Note when the music continues.]

He falls into the paint. Okada jumps on top of him.

Cut to an extreme ECU (one of the closest shots I've ever seen from Kurosawa) of Matsunaga -- only about 22 frames...

Cut to the medium shot again. Matsunaga struggles to his feet. Okada holds his knife ready to strike.

Cut to close-up on Okada. His eyes are bugging out and he looks crazed. He attacks, but Matsunaga grabs his hand and wrestles him to the ground. They both slip and slide around in the white paint.

Cut to close up on Matsunaga, breathing heavily.

Cut to Okada, also breathing heavily. His eyes are still bugging out.

Quick cut back to Matsunaga ... quick cut back to Okada ... back to Matsunaga ... back to Okada ... he is moving the knife forward ...

Back to Matsunaga, struggling to get up...

Cut to the medium shot -- Okada attacking...

Cut to an ECU of Matsunaga getting out of the way. Once out of the way of the knife, the rest of the shot shows his shoes and knees dragging over the paint, creating tracks...
Cut to a medium shot -- Matsunaga on his hands and knees in the paint.

He pulls himself to his feet and stumbles to the door. Okada comes over and plunges the knife into his belly. There is no dramatic music. All is silent. Right after he pulls the knife out...

The score begins again. Matsunaga pushes open the doors and falls outside.

Cut to outside POV. He stumbles along the side of the walkway, holding onto a railing. There are clotheslines everywhere above him. He moves up to another walkway, and crashes through the posts, lying upside down, head and arm draped over the walkway -- and he dies, as the crane shot pulls back and up. Now it comes back in for a close-up on the dead body...

Cut to the doctor walking along the path by the pond, towards the camera, holding the rice balls. Fade to black.

Up on the scummy pond. The wind is blowing.

Cut to Gin, staring straight ahead. The doctor's voice:

"Hey there, sister!" She turns her head. He enters the frame right.

"What’s wrong? You look awful blue today.” he asks. He moves his head towards the pond: "Don't drown yourself in that filthy stuff."

"You never did beat around the bush," she replies.

"How else can I keep my spirits up?" He turns to sit down on the bench.

This action is completed in this next cut. Reverse POV. A view taking in more of the filthy pond than we'd previously seen. He sits.

"Everything’s so screwed up, it makes me want to throw up. Thanks to that good-for-nothing."

"Doctor, you mustn’t speak ill of the dead."

"I forgot. You were in love with him."

"No, that’s not true. It's not that." She motions to something on the bench ... “It’s because these are his ashes, that’s why."

"I heard ... about your arranging his funeral.” Close up on the container holding Matsunaga’s ashes. Sanada‘s hand moves towards it, but he quickly pulls it away.

“Must’ve been expensive?"

"Yes, a little over 6,000 yen."

"That‘s an awful lot to blow."

"But, I just felt so sorry for him ... The big boss has it made. He said Matsunaga wasn’t loyal enough, so he wouldn’t claim Matsunaga’s body. But when Okada went to jail again, the boss ran around collecting money for him." She is crying. The doctor is moved. He picks up a large rock and heaves it into the pond. She looks up.

"I can't stand to stay in this disgusting place another day. This time, it’s for good.” She gets up.

“Thank you for everything, doctor.” She bows.

"Going back home?"

"Yes, I’m going to bury Matsunaga’s ashes in the country. Right before this happened, I’d talked to him about it. I wanted him to leave this life for the country."

"What a waste of time. I thought the same kind of thing. That I could make him leave his life as a Yakuza. But look at him. Once a beast, always a beast. You can never change anyone."

"That’s not fair. He was seriously considering it."

"You were blinded by love."

"Love made everything clear. He was on the verge of breaking free of it all. For once, he was really listening to me. I‘m not certain, but it even seemed like he was crying. But, still ..."

Close on Sanada.

"But Yakuza will always do the wrong thing in the end. That‘s why they‘re so pointless. And so senseless." Gin begins to cry.

"Don't cry. I know exactly how you feel. That's why I can't forgive him."

Cut to POV behind the bench -- looking out over Gin and the doctor to the pond. We hear a voice:

"Doctor!" It is the girl with TB.

"Hey, no running!" he yells at her.

"Doctor, you owe me a sweet.” She hands the doctor her X-ray. “Look, here’s my diploma.” He looks it over while she exchanges glances with Gin. “See, you owe me a sweet.”

“That I do. Where might one buy this sweet?”

“Don't you know anything? At the sweet shop.”

“I see, all right.”

To Gin: "Say, why don‘t you come along? I‘ll buy you a farewell sweet."

“Thank you, but I‘ll say good-bye here."

“I see. You be well now."

"I wish you well, too, doctor." She bows.

“Right.”

Sanada and the girl walk along the side of the pond.

“Doctor, if you approach it rationally, TB’s no big deal.”

“It’s not just TB. A rational approach is the best medicine for life.”

“The hilltop we climbed together...”

They walk arm in arm through the crowd. She is embarrassed.

“Doctor!“

The crane dollies back and up, as they walk through the crowded market.

The Japanese letters for the end credits zoom up from small to large (also a Kurosawa first).

“DRUNKEN ANGEL
THE END”

The image fades to black but the white-lettered credits remain: "The End"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SOURCES:

Stephen Prince: "The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa," (Princeton University Press (1991/1999) [SP]

Donald Richie: "The Films of Akira Kurosawa," University of California Press (1998) [DR]

James Goodwin: "Akira Kurosawa and Intertextual Cinema," The John Hopkins University Press (1994) [JG]

Stuart Galbraith IV: "The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune," Faber and Faber (2001) [SG]

Akira Kurosawa: "Something Like an Autobiography," Vintage Books (1983) [AK]

12 WIPES

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the right) -- 1
HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) -- 7
VERTICAL WIPE (top to bottom) -- 1
VERTICAL WIPE (bottom to top) -- 0
DIAGONAL WIPE (top right to bottom left) -- 1
DIAGONAL WIPE (top left to bottom right) -- 2

***

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Audio commentary featuring Japanese-film scholar Donald Richie
  • A 31-minute documentary on the making of Drunken Angel, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create
  • Kurosawa and the Censors, a new, 25-minute video piece that looks at the challenges Kurosawa faced in making Drunken Angel
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by cultural historian Ian Buruma and excerpts from Kurosawa's Something Like an Autobiography

No comments: