Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Original title: Akahige
Japan, 1965. Kurosawa Production Co., Toho Company. Screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Ryuzo Kikushima, Masato Ide, based on the novel Akahige shinryo Tan by Shugoro Yamamoto. Cinematography by Asakazu Nakai, Takao Saito. Produced by Ryuzo Kikushima, Tomoyuki Tanaka. Music by Masaru Sato. Production Design by Yoshiro Muraki. Costume Design by Yoshiko Samejima. Film Editing by Reiko Kaneko.
A towering achievement and one of Kurosawa’s very best films. A young upstart of a doctor graduates from a posh Nagasaki medical school and, rather than end up the doctor for the shogun as is his intention, is humbled by being posted at a modest local clinic. Completely at odds with what he expected from his profession, the young man rebels, trying his best to get himself fired by the wise head doctor (Toshirô Mifune) but instead inadvertently getting an education in compassion. Eventually getting to know the patients who use the clinic’s services, our hero is exposed to realities that make his heart nearly tear apart both from the sorrow he witnesses and the joy he feels in healing others. A humane epic that pays great tribute to our capacity for goodness, the film covers a huge spectrum of characters and situations in its three hours that never get too scattered. The characters are all so richly sympathetic and emotionally grounding that, despite its generous running time, you’ll never want it to end.
The Criterion Collection: #159
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film