Red Beard Reviews
P.S. I still don't feel comfortable putting it ahead of "Seven Samurai" as Akira Kurosawa's best, but it is close enough.
The deliberate camera work is patient and affords many opportunities for symbolism. The backdrop for the opening credits is the rooftops of the clinic and the town, showing how society looks down on the poor. Kurosawa often lights the scene so the shadows of the doctors, nurses, and patients are visible. Itâ(TM)s as if their physical bodies are complemented by their spiritual souls. As he does in all of his films, the weather represents when the plot becomes complicated in addition to the conflict inside Dr. Yamoto. Snow falls to show when his conscience is clear.
Everyone in the film comes from a different background, some with skeletons - literally - in the closet. Everyone has a second chance to redeem themselves. Life may not be fair but one can only carry on and do their best. Red Beardâ(TM)s devotion to the citizens of the small town convinces Dr. Yamoto to change his career path; although he understands that he will have no money and no honour, he still wishes to serve the poor. Seeing the progress of the ill patients inspires him to help more.
To me, the most memorable moment is when the doctors make a house call to a girls with syphilis. The family and neighbours refuse to send her to the clinic. Red Beard bluntly tells them: âA bad doctor can kill you. I wonâ(TM)t kill you but I will break some arms and legs.â? The men subsequently step outside and the doctor gives the intransigent strangers a thorough beating to straighten them out. Then he orders his two interns to bandage the injured and find a cart to carry the seriously wounded to the clinic. âI might have gone too far,â? Red Beard reflects.
The film develops characters slowly and consistently. There are comedic moments, emotional scenes, and even though it is not The Seven Samurai, a clever action sequence. Similar to how Torn Curtain was the end of an amazing filmmaking partnership (Hitchcock and Hermann), Red Beard is the last time that Kurosawa worked with ToshirÃ´ Mifune. Mifune played so many iconic roles (the businessman, the beggar, the bandit) yet he always altered his performance so that he was not merely portraying an archetype. In this film, he could have made Red Beard the stereotypical mentor but his gruff but sensitive mannerism and steely eyes (Christian Bale could learn from this) shaped a truly memorable character.