23 August 2018 | boblipton
A Collaboration of Auteurs and Duelling Bogarts
People say the first collaboration between Kurosawa and Mifune was DRUNKEN ANGEL in 1948, yet here's this movie from 1947 with a script co-written by Kurosawa with the second lead by Mifune.... and the lead by Shimura. Other Kurosawa regulars in it include Akitake Kôno and Kokuten Kôdô. Yes, it was directed by Senkichi Taniguchi, but it feels like a Kurosawa picture to me.
Mifune, Shimura and Yoshio Kosugi have stolen some money and fled to the mountains. Kosugi has been killed in an avalanche, and the two survivors fetch up at a hunting-and-mountaineering cabin in the dead of winter, where Shimura makes friends with the owner and his granddaughter and Mifune blackmails mountaineer Kôno into helping them over the mountains before the police catch up to them, lest he kill the innocent.
Kurosawa's scripts always borrowed liberally from other nations' literature, and here I have the impression he was writing a German Mountain movie as if B. Traven had done the novel and then Warner Brothers had turned it into a movie. Had Kurosawa gotten wind of the production of THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE and co-written his script, with Mifune in the Bogart part.... and then cast his mind back to HIGH SIERRA for an earlier Bogart role for Shimura?
Maybe not. Taniguchi certainly brings a lot to the movie, with his co-writing, long shots of bright snow and unbreakable paths, as well as obdurate mountains. It's hard to tell at this distance who had written what and who had which insight. Film is a collaborative medium in which dozens, if not hundreds of auteurs collaborate; when it works, academics and critics like to assign the responsibility to one individual. When it fails, of course, the suits in the front office get the blame.