Akira Kurosawa
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The moll, Nanae (Michiyo Kogure), and the gangster, Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune), from DRUNKEN ANGEL.
DRUNKEN ANGEL . Yoidore Tenshi . 1948

In the period following World War II, Kurosawa's work matured and deepened in response to the conditions of national catastrophe and collapse in Japan. The war had ruined the nation, and Kurosawa spoke through film as an artist addressing this devastation and seeking a path beyond it. One of the best of these postwar films, DRUNKEN ANGEL is about a slum doctor (Sanada) trying to cure a young gangster of tuberculosis, with the physical cure of the disease used as a metaphor for the kind of psychological changes that must accompany postwar recovery. As he would do again in IKIRU and RED BEARD, Kurosawa uses illness as a social metaphor.

Toshiro Mifune (as the gangster Matsunaga) appears here for the first time in Kurosawa's work. Mifune impressed Kurosawa with his ferocious energy and his quick reactions. They would make 16 films together, becoming one of cinema's legendary director-actor partnerships. Another Kurosawa regular, Takashi Shimura, plays the doctor, and Kurosawa would go on to pair these two great actors in lead roles for the next decade.

-- Stephen Prince

Read an excerpt from Kurosawa's autobiography where he describes the genesis of the film and first encountering the acting skills of Toshiro Mifune.
"In this picture I was finally myself. It was my picture. I was doing it and no one else."
Akira Kurosawa
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