413 Drunken Angel

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Murasaki53
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#51 Post by Murasaki53 » Sun Mar 25, 2007 8:32 am

Watching a little of Sanshiro Sugata on Google Video (thanks for letting us know about this by the way) has flagged up something interesting for me: a lot is made of Kurosawa's humanism but what about his Buddhism?

High and Low, for example, seems to be based on the Buddhist teaching of the Six Realms. The characters inhabit these realms both physically & psychologically at various points in the film.

Rashomon, meanwhile, is almost a cinematisation (is there such a word?) of the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna's 4-Cornered Negation or tetralemma. Nagarjuna's philosophy is sometimes called the sunyavada or sunyatavada and has hugely influenced Japanese Zen. Here's an extract from Alan Watts' The Way of Zen :

"The Sunyavada takes its name from the term sunya, void, or sunyata, voidness, with which Nagarjuna described the nature of reality, or rather, of the conceptions of reality which the human mind can form. Conceptions here include not only metaphysical views but also ideals, religious beliefs, ultimate hopes, and ambitions of every kind – everything which the mind of man seeks and grasps for his physical or spiritual security. Not only does the Sunyavada demolish the beliefs which one consciously adopts; it also seeks out the hidden and unconscious premises of thought and action, and submits them to the same treatment until the very depths of the mind are reduced to a total silence. "

Similarly, Rashomon gives us nothing to hang on to when it comes to seeking out the nature of truth.

In Sanshiro Sugata (which I'll now definitely be getting in its R4 incarnation) the influence of Buddhism is at its most explicit in the scene where Sanshiro spends the night in the pond and has a satori-like experience on seeing the flower the next morning. Zen Buddhism traces its own origins to a legendary story about the Buddha himself who instead of giving his usual sermon on one occasion simply held up a flower. This produced a non-verbal realisation of enlightenment in a monk called Kasyapa. It is very clear that Kurosawa is alluding to this very famous story in the scene in question.

I'm not, by the way, trying to suggest that Kurosawa was a Buddhist. But he does certainly seem to know his Buddhism, or his Zen Buddhism at any rate. It will therefore be interesting to see whether Drunken Angel contains any further Buddhist allusions or themes as the Buddha was himself regarded as a spiritual doctor and even presented his teachings in a form which imitated the procedure adopted by ancient Indian physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of illness.

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Schkura
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#52 Post by Schkura » Sun Mar 25, 2007 3:44 pm

I'll have to see if I can find anything on Kurosawa/Buddhism. I have only read The Emporer and the Wolf and The Films of Akira Kurosawa, both of which lead me to believe he was in the "spiritual, but not religous" camp. I read them a while back, though, so maybe I'm forgetting something important. Thought-provoking connections nonetheless.

For what its worth (and to hover closer to the topic at hand), the BFI Kurosawa biography page notes this re: Drunken Angel:
His early films were produced during the Second World War, so had to comply to themes prescribed by official state propaganda policy. It was Drunken Angel which was Kurosawa's first personally expressive work, made in 1948 and featuring Toshiro Mifune who became Kurosawa's favourite leading man. The director has noted "In this picture I finally discovered myself".

Murasaki53
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#53 Post by Murasaki53 » Sun Mar 25, 2007 5:25 pm

Do let me know if you find anything. I'm afraid I've hardly read any critical literature on Kurosawa. The reason I'm picking up on these themes is because I teach religion/philosophy and tend to use scenes from movies whenever I can if they help to illustrate the concepts or theories I'm trying to convey.

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#54 Post by ByMarkClark.com » Mon Mar 26, 2007 9:38 am

Murasaki53 wrote:Similarly, Rashomon gives us nothing to hang on to when it comes to seeking out the nature of truth.
I think the point of RASHOMON is that truth remains elusive, and it makes that point well.

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Luke M
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#55 Post by Luke M » Wed Aug 15, 2007 6:23 pm

Very happy to see this coming out so soon. I had sent an email asking about more Kurosawa and Tamara got back to me stating that the release had been delayed. Guess it wasn't too big of a problem.

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#56 Post by blindside8zao » Wed Aug 15, 2007 7:07 pm

Tommaso wrote: I don't think we can judge "The Idiot" at all, as the only version still in existence is the one that was butchered by the studio with about 100 (!) minutes missing. Thus the stupid gaps in the narrative and the general uneven feel it has.
Does anyone else think that the novel has this same feel? As if Dostoevsky did not take as much care editing it or refining it? It feels very rough to me (but I've only read it once). Despite this I think it's a gem and am absolutely in love with it. For some reason the presentation doesn't seem to hurt the content.

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#57 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Aug 15, 2007 7:32 pm

The only section where I felt Dostoevsky got sloppy and went a bit out of control in Idiot is in the (very) long diatribes about the Roman Catholic Church in the last part of the book. This really seemed out of place -- and brought the whole story to a dead stop.

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#58 Post by zone_resident » Mon Nov 12, 2007 7:18 pm


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#59 Post by Tommaso » Tue Nov 13, 2007 7:40 am

The Savant review looks very promising, looks like a must-have disc. However, I find it funny how Erickson talks about the forthcoming Eclipse box as a "deluxe postwar Kurosawa set". Enthusiasm is okay, but if anything, this box will NOT be 'deluxe', although the films would deserve it...

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#60 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Nov 13, 2007 10:02 am

Tommaso wrote:The Savant review looks very promising, looks like a must-have disc. However, I find it funny how Erickson talks about the forthcoming Eclipse box as a "deluxe postwar Kurosawa set". Enthusiasm is okay, but if anything, this box will NOT be 'deluxe', although the films would deserve it...
It would be semi-deluxe if the set at least included the available Toho documentaries on a supplementary disc. ;~}

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#61 Post by macaca » Tue Nov 13, 2007 9:47 pm


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#62 Post by davebert » Mon Dec 10, 2007 4:26 pm

I may be about to make a cultural idiot out of myself here, but I watched Drunken Angel last night (finally, after years of reading about it), and the tune that the guitar player strums sounds very familiar to the theme to Suzuki's Tokyo Drifter, minus lyrics. Was this just a tonal anomaly, or is there a popular song both tunes were riffing on?

I could have just hallucinated the whole thing, too.

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#63 Post by zone_resident » Sun Dec 23, 2007 9:58 am


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Morbii
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#64 Post by Morbii » Sat Feb 02, 2008 6:39 am

I thought the movie was quite engaging, but fuck me rotting if Criterion shouldn't have just chopped off the tops and bottoms and made the fucker widescreen. I suppose this is my first "introduction" to the whole pictureboxing thing. I had an HDTV already, but the new one I recently bought must really throw up the mad anti-overscan because the gaps missing between the top and bottom of my screen and the picture were just not acceptible. I hope that they haven't mastered all the films that they've mastered in HD like this at the source level. Else we're in trouble (and i'm sure I may be reiterating sentiments that have gone on for months, but I've just recently seen the effects of this problem for real).

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Tommaso
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#65 Post by Tommaso » Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:23 am

Why don't you simply zoom in so that the blacks on top and bottom are gone? Even then, the clarity and detail of CC's picture-boxed transfers look better than almost anything else which comes from other companies.

No excuse for the picture-boxing, of course, but I just don't think that the problems caused by this are that huge. And with "Drunken Angel", the source material is in such mediocre condition that the slight loss wouldn't matter anyway. I'm far more annoyed that CC, as usual, fiddled with the blackness boosting on "Drunken Angel", so much so that in some of the dark scenes at the beginning you almost can't see anything of what's going on...

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Morbii
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#66 Post by Morbii » Sat Feb 02, 2008 10:07 pm

Tommaso wrote:Why don't you simply zoom in so that the blacks on top and bottom are gone? Even then, the clarity and detail of CC's picture-boxed transfers look better than almost anything else which comes from other companies.
Yeah, that isn't a bad suggestion. I just shouldn't have to do that, is all. Course, I probably won't go that route because I suspect I'll forget to change it back when I'm done and I'll end up missing stuff from my non-criterion's.

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Tommaso
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#67 Post by Tommaso » Sun Feb 03, 2008 6:39 am

Morbii wrote: Course, I probably won't go that route because I suspect I'll forget to change it back when I'm done and I'll end up missing stuff from my non-criterion's.
I don't know how your set behaves, but with mine it is like this: once I change the setting, say from 4:3 to Widescreen or to any of the other possible settings, it automatically 'forgets' that I zoomed in before when I switch back to 4:3 afterwards. Same when I switch the set off and back on. So if yours does the same, no reason to worry about forgetting to change back. And in any case, you'll notice pretty soon that you have to change it back once you watch the next film, as the titles and the heads will be chopped off.

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#68 Post by Tootletron » Thu Feb 28, 2008 10:24 pm

I noticed that Stray Dog and Drunken Angel were made very close to each other. For those of us love most of Kurosawa's work but thought that Stray Dog was a meandering, slow, sleep inducing film, what will we think of Drunken Angel? Are they at all similar?

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#69 Post by teddyleevin » Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:45 am

Tootletron wrote:I noticed that Stray Dog and Drunken Angel were made very close to each other. For those of us love most of Kurosawa's work but thought that Stray Dog was a meandering, slow, sleep inducing film, what will we think of Drunken Angel? Are they at all similar?
I thought the tone was often similar, but Drunken Angel is a shorter film, the plot of which moves along very quickly. I liked Stray Dog, too, probably even more than Drunken Angel, but there's no reason not to give Drunken Angel at least a rent.

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#70 Post by agnamaracs » Fri Sep 05, 2008 1:13 am

I have become fascinated with the censorship documents shown in the Kurosawa vs the Censors documentary. Does anyone know if any of these are available online in any form?

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Re: 413 Drunken Angel

#71 Post by aox » Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:06 am

I saw this tonight. Pretty decent film, but I was shocked at how bad the print was, even if fully restored by Criterion. Wouldn't this have been more at home in the Post-War Kurosawa Eclipse Box then as a stand-alone? Does this film hold more significance than the others from this period (other then being Kurosawa's first independent film from the government) not to warrant its inclusion with Eclipse? Especially considering the elements?

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Re: 413 Drunken Angel

#72 Post by manicsounds » Wed Dec 10, 2008 3:03 am

Being the first Mifune-Kurosawa collaboration perhaps warrants it. I'm still sad for the fact that the Eclipse sets don't have the making-ofs created.

The print itself looks much worse than other Criterions, but hey, the Japanese releases are pretty much the same too.

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Tommaso
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Re: 413 Drunken Angel

#73 Post by Tommaso » Wed Dec 10, 2008 8:47 am

It's certainly one of his best pre-1950s films, only "Stray Dog" being superior in my view. But considering the elements, I'd have much preferred to have this one included in the Eclipse set and "The Idiot" being released on its own. Perhaps they wouldn't have fiddled with the contrast knobs in this case, too. And it would have made the Eclipse set far more attractive for multi-region buyers, too (only double-dipping on ONE of the MoC's, then).

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Re: 413 Drunken Angel

#74 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Dec 10, 2008 9:49 am

...and indeed The Idiot, with it's sprawl, rich literary source, and troubled final version with seemingly lost elements, was the better candidate for the "full treatment" via CC, instead of Eclipse. Indeed I found it out of place in "Postwar Kurosawa" (practically all of AK's films are "postwar", so the appellation is meaningless, particularly when stretched forward to six years, to 1951). Certainly Drunken Angel, with it's rough elements and 1940's date, would have been a better Eclipse candidate.

It is important film though, being Mifune's first role for AK-- brining him together with Shimura as well (who is fantastic in this film... but he's fantastic in most everything he does... except maybe Godzilla Raids Again!).

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: 413 Drunken Angel

#75 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Dec 10, 2008 10:15 am

I enjoyed Drunken Angel -- but actually liked the much less-heralded Quiet Duel considerably more.

I think there is enough supplementary information available on _most_ of Kurosawa's film (from libraries, perish the thought) that the lack of extras is more bearable than it would be were one deaing with a less well-known director.

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