Red Beard (1965) – Akira Kurosawa

Red Beard is the next recommendation from the What Else to Watch list in DK Canada’s The Movie Book, following my screening of Rashomon.

This film marks the last collaboration between Kurosawa, and iconic Japanese actor, Toshiro Mifune. Over a sprawling, and engaging three hours, Kurosawa explores humanism and existentialism through this adaption of a collection of stories by Shugoro Yamamoto.

The story, set in the 19th century, follows a town’s doctor, Kyojo Niide (Mifune) as he works on a number of cases, with the help of a new intern, and possible replacement, Noburo Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama).

The film follows their relationship, their interactions, and that of the town, which sees a young girl being rescued from a brothel.

Kurosawa’s continued talent for storytelling, and crafting a beautiful, thoughtful film that provokes, and delights over it’s three hour runtime.

Over these past few entries my appreciation for not only Kurosawa but Mifune has increased exponentially. I’ve always been a fan of both but watching their work like this, makes me appreciate it all the more. Mifune was a titanic talent, and I delight in every role I can find him in.

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As Yasumoto works with Niide, he begins to see that it’s not about status, it’s not about wealth, being a doctor is about helping others, tending to them, guiding them, aiding them in their lives. He learns this lesson a number of ways, even as he falls ill, letting him see his profession from both sides.

Kurosawa made a beautiful film, and while it is all of that and more, I still prefer Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress, but seeing Mifune in almost any role is always a delight.

Even with a three hour runtime, the film moves a long at a steady and entertaining pace, letting each story play out, each character have their moments and their arcs, and each of them pays off wonderfully as the film explores familiar themes to Kurosawa’s work.

His period pieces have such attention to detail, and the costume work and set design is top-notch, and just adds a layer of realism to his work, and the actors’ performances.

The stories at work throughout the film, the work of the doctors, the lessons learned, the moments earned, and the characters resolutions all prove to be exceptional.

Red Beard entertains, provokes, and creates conversation, as true cinema should. But don’t take my word for it, pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book and find something exceptional to watch tonight!

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