Scandal (1950)

3 11 2008

Another winner from Akira Kurosawa, though this is actually a lot different than the great No Regrets for Our Youth. The scope here is a lot less sprawling for starters, which almost inherently makes the film feel a lot less self-consciously serious. In addition, this film provides some of the much needed humor that was absent in No Regrets. Even though Setsuko Hara is great in that film, she isn’t necessarily dependent upon, where as this probably wouldn’t be all that great without Takeshi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune. Both really bring the right amount of comedy to a cultural indictment that (unfortunately) still rings true today.

If Kurosawa was channeling Ford’s How Green Was My Valley through No Regrets for Our Youth than he’s probably channeling Doctor Bull or Young Mr. Lincoln here. There is the small superficial connection between all three films and that is that all three take place in a courtroom, but the brilliant way in which Ford blends absurd and cynical comedy with something emotionally substantial seems to be something Kurosawa used as a reference point here. The humor here, like in Ford’s and even William A. Wellman’s work, bites extremely hard. The brutality of the criticisms is only matched by the humor that comes along with it.

While much of the film’s success can be placed upon Kurosawa’s biting satire, even more credit needs to be given to Takeshi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune, in one of their earliest and best collaborations. Shimura, in particular, is amazing as Mifune’s lawyer. At first his performance seems a bit over-the-top, but as character continues to empahsize his feeling of self-loathing and low self value, his performance takes a turn from the dramatic to downright heartbreaking. The fact that his daughter is portrayed as this sinless angel is a bit exaggerated, but the whole bit with Mifune falling in love with her is great and sort of unexpected since he’s surrounded by models and singers.

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