Red Beard

Red Beard, Kurosawa (1965). If poverty and cruelty could be eradicated there would be much less need for medicine. As it is, doctors only treat symptoms of a larger social malfunction and are up against long odds when it comes to easing human suffering.

Initially put off by some of the film’s narrative passages, which struck me as a bit halting in their development, as well as by the slightly hagiographic portrait of the Red Beard character, I was nevertheless moved by the sweetness of the film’s second half and by the compelling portrait it gives of what disease is and what a doctor must do to cure it. All in all, a heroic portrayal of the medicinal art (as Ikuru was of the beaurocratic art).

What prompted me to put this in my queue was that I had read that this was the last film Kurosawa had done with Toshiro Mifune (who plays Red Beard). Apparently, the movie was difficult to make and had strained relations between them. On which, wikipedia:

Red Beard is the last of numerous films in which Kurosawa worked with Mifune. In the DVD commentary, film scholar Stephen Prince mentions that Mifune’s natural beard had to be maintained through the lengthy production, so he was unable to act in other films. The resulting financial stress on Mifune was one of the causes of the breakup between the actor and director.

Teruyo Nogami, Kurosawa’s longtime script supervisor, says in her autobiography Waiting on the Weather that the author of the book Red Beard was based upon approached Kurosawa after seeing the film and mentioned that he believed the film was good, but Mifune got the character of Red Beard wrong in his portrayal. This, Nogami says, caused Kurosawa for the first time to question Mifune’s abilities, never again asking him to work on a film with him. Nogami also says that Mifune wished later in life to collaborate once again with Kurosawa.

Wikipedia goes on to say this was K.’s last black and white film and the only one to feature nudity.

%d bloggers like this: