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Akahige (1965) By Akira Kurosawa

In Nineteenth Century Japan times are hard, there is famine and the people cannot afford a good hospital. Budget of healthcare is being cut and clinics suffers from it. The movie tells a story influenced by Dostoevsky. Human minds in extreme conditions.

There are many short tales inside the movie, but but the main story concentrates to the phases of young Dr. Noboru Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama) and the good hearted and strong Dr. Niide "Akahige". While working with Akahige, Dr. Yasumoto finds his real self and learns how to feel deeper compassion to others.

Akahige is sincere, simple and pure story. While not especially typical to Kurosawa, I found surprising the way how the movie pulls the viewer right in. You just cannot stop watching this once you begin. The characters feel real and genuine. This doesn't really feel like a movie from 60's. Akahige feels fresh. If you haven't seen Kurosawa's movies before, Akahige is great movie to start. You will not be bored.

The movie managed to move the foreign audience too, even the audience who were not especially interested of Japanese cinema or culture.

Now that I have watched this couple of times, I thought that the movie does have a western influence a bit, likely to Kurosawa. This influence is most visible in the simple characters and the way how characters develop. Yasumoto is so lazy and selfish in the beginning but turns out great in the end. But at the same time, Akahige actually feels like a novel rather than a movie.

Cinematography and visual design of the movie is great. Outside there is a constant howling sound of wind (is it a bit too much?) and flying dust. There is not one bit of extra glamour, not even in the women's wardrobe. The scenes inside the clinic are rich in detail. The scene in which landslide shakes the house, and the destroyed city after the earthquake has strong immersion and realism. Also some of the operation scenes are hard and realistic, displaying the human suffering in Kurosawa's typical way.

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Toshiro Mifune doesn't surprise as Akahige. He is just as solid actor as you might expect. He has little a bit too mannerism of touching his beard all the time, but perhaps that's the character of great doctor of 19th century. Yuzo Kayama has a strong character and powerful body, but perhaps he plays his role a little too seriously.

It made me surprised to see Sugimura Haruko and Tanaka Kinuyo in this film. Especially Tanaka, the trusty actress of so many Mizoguchi movies, gave interesting addition to this movie as the kind mother of Noboru. And Sugimura Haruko was the madame of the Geisha house.

The young girl Otoyo (Terumi Niki) is also such a fantastic actress, as well as the young boy who becomes her friend.

Akahige marked the end of Kurosawa's collaboration with Toshiro Mifune, as well as was the last Black and White movie of Kurosawa.

Myself I have always felt I lean a bit more into Ozu Yasujiro's direction rather than Kurosawa's. Kurosawa's movies seem a bit too classic and intellectual for me. But I can enjoy Akahige no matter how many times I watch it.


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