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 Post subject: 233 Stray Dog
PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2004 5:10 pm 

Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:53 pm
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Stray Dog

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A bad day gets worse for young detective Murakami when a pickpocket steals his gun on a hot, crowded bus. Desperate to right the wrong, he goes undercover, scavenging Tokyo's sweltering streets for the stray dog whose desperation has led him to a life of crime. With each step, cop and criminal's lives become more intertwined and the investigation becomes an examination of Murakami's own dark side. Starring Toshiro Mifune, as the rookie cop, and Takashi Shimura, as the seasoned detective who keeps him on the right side of the law, Stray Dog (Nora Inu) goes beyond a crime thriller, probing the squalid world of postwar Japan and the nature of the criminal mind.

Special Features

- New high-definition digital transfer, with restored image and sound
- Audio commentary by Stephen Prince, author of The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa
- Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create, a 32-minute documentary on the making of Stray Dog
- A printed booklet featuring an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty and an excerpt from Kurosawa's autobiography, Something Like an Autobiography, in which he discusses the production of Stray Dog
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2004 6:39 pm 

Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:27 pm
Location: London, UK
Martha wrote:
From a filmic (is that a word?) standpoint, I enjoyed it. I liked the simplicity of the story and its telling, and that it ended with a Wise Older Man telling a Youngster about the world while cheesy music played, because it's nice to see that even Kurosawa traded in cliches. The sequences that struck me as strongest were Murakami's pursuit of the pickpocket and their subsequent conversation and the scenes between Sato and Murakami at Sato's home. Both I think allowed the characters a few moments away from the highly restrictive Japanese cultural and class guidelines that, for most of the film, really limit the depth of their interactions (and thus restrict the actors as well).

Additionally, the similarity between the early montages here and those in Man With a Movie Camera was really striking. To my mind, it's unquestionable that Kurosawa had Vertov's work in mind when he used mirrors to multiply crowds (in such obvious ways that it's clearly not meant to be hidden) and layered dissolve upon dissolve.

I also couldn't stop thinking about how much more mature and sure of themselves Kurosawa and Mifune would be 10 year later in Yojimbo.

From a curiosity standpoint, I absolutely loved the baseball scenes-- great glimpses of the Japanese game in the late 40s. (But then, I'm sort of a lapsed baseball freak, so those moments might appeal less to the rest of you.) Also, I could not believe how young Mifune looked, just a year before Rashomon. He's much lighter, I think, and when he's clean-shaven he looks almost boyish.

This is my favourite Kurosawa. Admittedly, I'm not his number one fan, but here the rough edges are what I like best. There's a real kinetic excitement and palpably intense atmosphere to the entire film, and even though it doesn't always work (like practically every Kurosawa film, it's too long), it's so rivetingly inventive and vigorous, any flaws quickly pass by. A wonderful film.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2004 6:55 pm 

Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:53 pm
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Jon, have you seen Yojimbo? This isn't thread in which to sing its praises, but it's easily my favorite Kurosawa, due largely to the easy confidence with which Mifune and the director approach their tasks. It's somehow both incredibly precise and polished and wonderfully casual. Probably it was a mistake to see it before Stray Dog, because now I take less pleasure in the rough edges in the earlier film. That said, as I indicated above, there were things about it that I really enjoyed.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 2:04 am 

Joined: Sun Dec 05, 2004 4:21 pm
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Just to let you know, Martha - filmic is most definitely a word. And a good one at that.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 2:51 am 
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Just saw this for the first time a few nights ago, and what I liked most about it was the way Kurosawa portrayed the unseen (to the audience, anyway) horrors of war.

A comment in the essay on The Royal Tenenbaums Criterion actually seems relevant -- the author (Kent Jones or Dave Kehr, I think -- my copy is 250 miles away) said something about how Wes Anderson focuses on the effects of a tragedy rather than the tragedy itself. That's what I felt with Stray Dog -- how Kurosawa dealt with the effects of war reminded me of some of Hemingway, like The Sun Also Rises and "A Soldier's Home."

I actually thought Kurosawa was able to sidestep the cliche Martha mentioned, because it seemed to me that while the Wise Older Man was telling the Youngster about how things worked, the Youngster knew the Wise Older Man was, to a certain degree, full of shit. Murakami and Yusa seem to be the only characters in the film who really know the score.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 5:12 am 

Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:53 pm
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Interesting. While I agree with your last sentence, I'm not sure I believe that the last scene reflects that. It actually reminded me of Knute Rockne, All American in its cheesy sincerity-- and I really am not saying that in a derisive way. I think the movie had invested way too much in Sato to simply dismiss him as an old fool; it seems to me that he believes what he's saying, and that Murakami is at least acknowledging that he may one day come to agree with him. Plus, wouldn't a large portion of the original audience likely have shared Sato's views? It would be awfully foolish (and arrogant) of Kurosawa to turn around and tell them that they're all full of shit.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 1:54 pm 

Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:27 pm
Location: London, UK
Martha wrote:
Jon, have you seen Yojimbo?

I have not. I was waiting for someone or other to get their shit together and put it out right.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 2:10 pm 
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essrog wrote:
I actually thought Kurosawa was able to sidestep the cliche Martha mentioned, because it seemed to me that while the Wise Older Man was telling the Youngster about how things worked, the Youngster knew the Wise Older Man was, to a certain degree, full of shit. Murakami and Yusa seem to be the only characters in the film who really know the score.

Perhaps; but Sato doesn't seem to be too well off either. If we compare his house and style of living to, say, that of the rich window's house with the tomato garden, he lives in almost poverty by comparison.

The occupation and post-occupation periods were tough on people in a variety of ways, and Sato hasn't been left unaffected.

He's actually very right when it comes to Yusa. He is a piece of trash; and where Murakami can't seem to get past their similarities, Sato is able to see the decisive difference: how they chose to cope with their condition. Yusa may indeed know the score, but unlike Murakami, his choice only ended up screwing him.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 9:02 pm 
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Quote:
It would be awfully foolish (and arrogant) of Kurosawa to turn around and tell them that they're all full of shit.

I see now that the use of "full of shit" in my orginal post was the wrong choice of words, as it usually is. It looked like I was too tough on Sato. Actually, I think he is a wise man and he has been profoundly affected by the post-war occupation, as Mr. Sausage pointed out. I just think that his experience is different in that he hasn't fought in a horrific war.

Quote:
He's actually very right when it comes to Yusa. He is a piece of trash
.
Well, I won't try to defend what Yusa did, and I don't think Kurosawa wants to, either. But I do think that [spoiler]Yusa's shrieking frenzy at the end after he hears the passerbys singing and sees the natural beauty all around him[/spoiler] (I have no idea if that's a spoiler or not) hint at his experiences during the war, which only Murakami, and not Sato, can understand. That doesn't let him off the hook, since Murakami had similar experiences and chose differently. At the very least, though, it throws some ambiguity into Sato's speechifying at the end.

Quote:
I think the movie had invested way too much in Sato to simply dismiss him as an old fool; it seems to me that he believes what he's saying, and that Murakami is at least acknowledging that he may one day come to agree with him.

Upon further review, I agree.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 11:02 am 
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Quote:
(I have no idea if that's a spoiler or not) hint at his experiences during the war, which only Murakami, and not Sato, can understand. That doesn't let him off the hook, since Murakami had similar experiences and chose differently. At the very least, though, it throws some ambiguity into Sato's speechifying at the end.

There isn't really anything to suggest that, and I don't believe it's what Kurosawa intended. Yusa's screaming fit comes after he stares at the white flowers growing in front of his face and realizes all he will miss as a result of his crimes. The school girls come in afterwards as an ironic counter-point.

To my eyes this movie has nothing to do with the actual war; it has everything to do with the post-war period, however. Being soldiers and fighting in a war isn't what prompted Yusa or Murakami in their directions. It was having their bags stolen upon returning home, a result of the state of occupied Japan.

Frankly, the one that I don't think understands is Yusa. In these cases you must go on living. All he did was sit in his hovel and feel sorry for himself.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 3:07 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 6:06 pm
Martha wrote:
To my mind, it's unquestionable that Kurosawa had Vertov's work in mind when he used mirrors to multiply crowds (in such obvious ways that it's clearly not meant to be hidden)

Where did Kurosawa do this?


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 4:58 pm 

Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:53 pm
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BWilson wrote:
Where did Kurosawa do this?

In the scenes in which Murakami is wandering around the city trying to get someone to offer him again. I believe it happens more than once.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 7:23 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 6:06 pm
Martha wrote:
trying to get someone to offer him again.

Trying to get someone to offer him a gun? I'll have to watch this again. I didn't notice.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2005 7:54 pm 

Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:53 pm
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BWilson wrote:
Martha wrote:
...trying to get someone to offer him again.

Trying to get someone to offer him a gun? I'll have to watch this again. I didn't notice.

Yeah, that's the whole reason he's there-- the woman he tailed sent him....


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2006 4:24 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 17, 2006 4:16 pm
Location: Le Cateau, France
I just watched it today, I loved the movie, but I made the mistake to watch it just after viewing the gorgeous new edition of Seven Samurai and I must say that I hope they put their hand on a better copy some day. Maybe I am spoiled but I found the quality at the bottom of what Criterion has provided so far.

By the way I hate the comment of Terrence Rafferty in the essay about Simenon. I love Simenon and reading that he is a petit maître and that his books never demonstrated ''curiosity about the extremes of human behaviour'' made me quite angry; obviously this gentleman has (maybe) read a few Maigret but never any of Simenon's masterworks. And he is not French, but Belgian.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2006 5:41 pm 
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French completist wrote:
By the way I hate the comment of Terrence Rafferty in the essay about Simenon. I love Simenon and reading that he is a petit maître and that his books never demonstrated ''curiosity about the extremes of human behaviour'' made me quite angry; obviously this gentleman has (maybe) read a few Maigret but never any of Simenon's masterworks. And he is not French, but Belgian.

Don't worry too much about it. Rafferty isn't the first movie critic to make sweeping generalizations about literary figures without having actually read much of their work, and I doubt he'll be the last.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:18 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 6:06 pm
French completist wrote:
I just watched it today, I loved the movie, but I made the mistake to watch it just after viewing the gorgeous new edition of Seven Samurai and I must say that I hope they put their hand on a better copy some day. Maybe I am spoiled but I found the quality at the bottom of what Criterion has provided so far.

Stray Dog is an excellent transfer of poor elements. The viewer needs to always take a moment to differentiate between the quality of the transfer and the quality of the film elements. Stray Dog is a film whose film elements are in very rough shape. The Criterion transfer is excellent. It isn't Criterion's fault that the film elements are so poor.


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