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Red Beard (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on April 15, 2010

This has long been one of my very favorite Kurosawas.  This is probably my 5th or 6th time watching it, and every time I think, “Oh, it’s not going to be as good as I remember it” and then it proves me wrong.  Although you could rightfully accuse it of being manipulative, you can’t deny that it works.  Loaded with tragedy, misery, misfortune and cruelty, and equally full of redemption, kindness and relief (and comedy), it’s a heartstring-tugger of the finest order.  And for my money the star is neither Toshiro Mifune in the title role, nor Yuzo Kayama as his protege.  The star of this film is young Terumi Niki, whose portrayal of the abused Otoyo chokes me up no less than FIVE times over the course of her transformation.  I also really enjoy the anecdotal structure, something Kurosawa didn’t indulge in very often, but it works beautifully here, with so many memorable mini-stories: the “mantis”, Sahachi’s deathbed confession, the showdown at the brothel, Otoyo and the bowl, and the fate of little Chobo.  As for the technical aspects, it’s elegant without being too flashy.  The compositions are truly masterful, artful yet utterly practical.  The use of sound is striking (Sahachi’s chimes, for instances) and even more impressive is the use of silence.  There are long stretches of this movie with very little happening on the soundtrack, which only serves to keep you even more riveted.  Kurosawa’s most emotionally rich and satisfying work.  Rating: 10


One Response to “Red Beard (rewatch)”

  1. […] 170. Red Beard (1965, Akira Kurosawa) […]

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