Akira Kurosawa directs Toshiro Mifune, Yuzo Kayama and Yoshio Tsuchiya in this Japanese period drama about taciturn town doctor and his new unwilling trainee.
Wayne and Ford. De Niro and Scorsese. Depp and Burton. DiCaprio & Scorsese again. Always fascinating to follow a star / director who have long standing, almost symbiotic, collaboration together and then try and pick apart that final project to try and figure out why ever they split the dream team up. In the case of Mifune and Kurosawa… the master just took too damn long. A two year shoot where Mifune could have made a half a dozen other projects. And at the peak of his international stardom cashed six juicy Toho or Hollywood paychecks. Still the results were worth it, a far more humanist drama than his samurai pictures but they still manage to crowbar in a kick ass fight sequence in the middle. In fact the rather death-centric movie turns a corner after Red Beard hands a group of pimps their hats and the narrative tightens to focus on a child rescued from prostitution, a very cute thief and our junior doctor finding his purpose after resisting his new posting. If you stick with it, Red Beard sheds its darkness and has a true, rare poetry.
Perfect Double Bill: Ikiru (1952)
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