Scandal (1950)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

Original title:  Shûbun

, 1950Screenplay by , Cinematography by Produced by Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by .  

plays a painter who is capturing a landscape at the top of a hill when a woman () walks by who has lost her way. He offers her a ride back to town, not knowing that she’s a famous singer with quite the following, they get separate rooms at a hotel and a friendly drink on her balcony without the slightest clue that curious gossip hounds are watching them and taking pictures. When a photo of the two of them is splayed across a tabloid magazine and becomes a national talking point (implying that they are having an immoral affair), it plunges our heroes into despair until they decide to do something about it. She worries that taking the magazine to court will only make things worse for the two of them, but he is determined to sue the publisher and win, hiring a lawyer () to do the job. Shimura then becomes the focus of the story as we see director Akira Kurosawa’s criticism of the media’s crumbling integrity after the war years unfold in no uncertain terms:  the lawyer wants to help his clients but he has a tough time resisting when the opposing side offers him a very big cheque to lose the case, a tempting prospect considering he has a very sick daughter at home. The conclusion is neat and tidy and not in the least bit believable for those of us who have endured the egregious excesses of tabloid journalism for the decades that have followed this film’s release, but the solid acting helps its manipulations go down easily; true to Kurosawa’s form, scenes like Mifune visiting Shimura’s tubercular daughter don’t even feel like manipulation, which they would in another director’s hands. Made on the cusp of his international breakthrough with Rashomon, it shows the director’s early experimentation with subjects and styles before committing himself to more nuanced investigations of morality that would follow in the years to come.

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