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Red Beard  [DVD]
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A film by Akira Kurosawa
Red Beard, the last and most ambitious of Kurosawa's collaborations with Toshiro Mifune, marks the end of one of the most remarkable actor-director relationship in the history of cinema.
Toshiro Mifune plays a commanding but humane doctor in a rural clinic in late 19th-century Japan. An idle and socially ambitious intern (Yuzo Kayama) arrives at the clinic and discovers the meaning of responsibility, first to oneself and then to others.
This intimate epic and offbeat social drama boldly mixes the styles of soap opera and the action movie, and rewards the viewer with a detailed reconstruction of a feudal era, a warmly humanitarian message and a powerhouse performance by Mifune.
DVD features introduction by Alex Cox, biographies of Kurosawa and Mifune, original poster and production stills
Japan | 1965 | black & white | Japanese language with English subtitles | 172 minutes | ratio 2.35:1 (16x9 anamorphic) | Region 2 DVD
'The film bowls along magnificently in a weird mixture of genuine emotion, absurdity and poetic fantasy.... In an incredible action scene Red Beard erupts into a samurai frenzy, knocks out some 20 men, breaks arms and legs like matchsticks, and ends with a gravely shamefaced mutter: 'I think I've gone too far'.'--Tom Milne, Time Out
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Top Customer Reviews
The film? Red Beard belongs in the short-list of Kurosawa masterpieces alongside Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Throne of Blood and Ikiru. In many ways it is the crowning achievement of one of the most fruitful director-star partnerships in cinema history. The great Toshiro Mifune plays the eponymous hero: a humanitarian doctor managing a clinic committed to the treatment of the poor. His charge becomes the education of a freshly graduated doctor, initially drawn to the wealthy, in whom he instils an understanding of the limits of medical knowledge and the importance of compassion. Thus it is another Kurosawa film about a master and pupil, this time with Death itself as the adversary against which the heroes battle. Astonishing attention to detail, – the period setting is fastidiously recreated – first-rate performances, and a director working at the peak of his powers. Strange to think that the breaking of the partnership would usher in a long period of doubt and artistic uncertainty for the master.
Laced with three-dimensional characters, and dialogue that eschews sentimentality, this is an epic concerning the human condition, and was sadly the last film that Kurosawa and Mifune would make together.
In many ways it feels remarkably similar to The Cardinal, with even Masaru Sato's excellent score sharing much of the flavor of Jerome Moross' score for the Preminger film, albeit with a much more strident counterpoint in the final cue that stakes the films claim to militance over reverence. It's a heartfelt and humane film, but it tends to wander more towards soap opera as it moves unhurriedly to its foregone conclusion. That said, the totally gratuitous fight scene IS fun.
The BFI's DVD release offers nothing substantial in the way of special features, but does offer a good 2.35:1 transfer, although it is irritating that the subtitles are laid over the picture rather than set against the black border.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
That Kurosawa/Mifune combination always worth watching, though this one does outstay its welcome just a bit.Published 17 months ago by Mike Gray
This epic (nearly three hour) commentary on the human condition provided a fitting finale to one of cinema’s greatest ever collaborations – that between master director (and, here,... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Keith M
This film is 10 out of 10, as all Kurosawa films are. I would urge anyone interested in great films to put any Kurosawa film on their wish list.Published on 28 Feb. 2013 by Mr. N. Bell
I truly love this film. I would honestly cry and bleed for it. Please watch it.Published on 3 May 2008 by M. Smith
Kurosawa further asserts his place as one of the great geniuses of film with this moving tale of an arrogant young doctor's growth into adulthood under the guidance of the learned... Read morePublished on 13 Dec. 2007 by Mr. S. E. C. Norman
Red Beard is the last Kurosawa-Mifune collaboration. Based on this fact, I built up some kind of prejudice against this film. Read morePublished on 4 Jun. 2007 by Amazon Customer