Taking place in post-war Japan, Akira Kurosawa's Drunken Angel is a harrowing journey into the treacherous time in Japanese life, where a defeated country was struggling to get back on its feet. The film begins with a small-time gangster played by a young, electric Toshiro Mifune who stumbles into a doctors' office late at night after a serious hand injury from a gang fight. He is treated by a alcoholic doctor, who diagnoses the young man with tuberculosis. These characters are both deeply flawed, but perhaps it's the doctor's unwillingness to let the young gangster go down the same path is where Drunken Angel pulls its dramatic weight. While the story of the film is powerful in stretches, Drunken Angel's greatest aspect is Kurosawa's skill as a filmmaker, as the film creates a vivid portrait of post-war Japan where people have lost a sense of hope. Kurosawa makes sure to establish the dire circumstances of this environment early on, capturing the disease-infested swamps and dirty back alleys where the Yakuza are thriving. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Mifune's young gangster character is headed down a tumultuous path, with it simply being insuppressable regardless of the doctor's attempts to plea with the young, lost man. The disease infested swamp that the town surrounds, as well as the Tuberculous itself, are metaphors of Japan itself, with Kurosawa showing real concern for where his country is headed. While Drunken Angel is a good film that features a enrapturing performance by Toshiro Mifune, there are films which I prefer when it comes to eliciting the feelings and mood of post-war culture.
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