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  • This film is practically never mentioned when Akira Kursawas best films are listed. I think this film should be at least one of the first three of such a list! I do love most of his films very much and my private choice of his best film is always this one. I saw it only once, maybe 20 years ago, but the memory of it is still very strong,. Some scenes burned their image into my mind forever! When I saw it at a small art house cinema here in Vienna, Austria, it was like a lovely dream you want to go on and on. I left the cinema thinking I just saw the best film of my life.

    True, it not comparable with the story telling masterpiece Rashomon or the complex Seven Samurai. The film does not feature new ways of telling a story. But I think it is Kurosawas most human legacy in a body of work which is rich of statements on humanity. and human weaknesses and strengths. Looking at any list of current films in the cinemas today one can only wish there would be much more films like Red Beard. Films like that can influence the way we see the world, like the current films packed with violence already do. It would be a much better world for sure!

    I don't go so far as to single out any part of the story. I would wish every one would see the film as I did, knowing nothing about it except the title and the director. The film speaks for itself.
  • ardent-114 October 2002
    It is common knowledge that many things changed for Kurosawa after this film. A breakdown, the loss of working friendship with Mifune, funding difficulties...etc...but with all the changes that followed the completion of Red Beard, while watching I couldn't help notice that everything was ironically in bloom. Akira Kurosawa's direction was never better, Mifune never acted better and at it's core Red Beard tells a story borrowed heavily form Dostoevsky, thus making this a labour of love. This film is flawless in many respects, if you're a film student, such as myself, you can take everything and pick it apart and find...The story is a simple one, a wise and determined doctor impresses a young ambitious doctor into learning what humanity is and how it exists all around us and that without it we are nothing. It tells of humanity through children and adults and the lowest depths of human existence. Some have argued the subject was a little too heavy handed but Kurosawa has always maintained that sometimes heavy handedness is needed especially for those who don't get it with a slap. In my opinion, there are periods in every artists career when they are at their best. Miles Davis was at his best before his breakdown, but the breakdown was bound to happen after creating and giving so much. I feel this is what happened to Kurosawa, he gave all that he could give and with this film, if you truly study it and study it well, (the DVD version comes with an exceptional commentary) you will find that this is one of the most finely crafted films in cinematic history, in fact as far as direction goes, it is difficult for me to think of one better directed. Fellini's best, Ozu's best, Coppola's best, Welles' best, Antonioni, Visconti, De Sica, Goddard, Renoir, Melville, Erice, you name it, watch their best with the sound off take note of the direction then compare it with RED BEARD. You will be left breathless. Kurosawa is a GREAT among the GREATS. This is visual poetry. Kurosawa's great directorial swan song. Bittersweet, for after RED BEARD something within Akira profoundly changed.
  • desh7930 October 2005
    Red Beard marked the end of an era for Kurosawa. It was the last of his period costume dramas (excluding Ran and Kagemusha, though these were more of a glorious revisit to his 'old' style anyhow), the last film he shot in black and white, and the last film he ever made with Toshiru Mifune, thus ending what is, to me at least, the finest director-actor pairing in the history of cinema. Perhaps it is for these reasons that I look on this film with so much fondness, and it remains one of my favourite Kurosawa films (alongside Ran and Rashomon). That aside, it is also filled with warmth and sincerity, but then that's to be expected from the man I consider to be the greatest director of all time. Highly recommended.
  • Akira Kurosawa said about the film, "I had something special in mind when I made this film because I wanted to make something that my audience would want to see it, something so magnificent that people would just have to see it." Humanistic and compassionate, the film tells the story of a young doctor who after graduation from the Dutch Medical School in Nagasaki hopes to become a member of the court medical staff but instead has to take a post as an intern at a Public Clinic for the impoverished patients. The clinic is run by Dr. Nide (Toshiro Mifune) whom the destitute patients call "Red Beard". The long and difficult journey awaits the young doctor – from the initial shock and denial to work at the clinic, to learning how to understand his patients, care for them s and see the humans in them. Kurosawa describes the film, one of his directorial pinnacles as a "monument to the goodness in man". It also can be called a monument to his talent and humanism.
  • This was the sixth Kurosawa film I ever saw, in a film-viewing binge that began with Seven Samurai and has yet to satiate me. It did, however, mark a turning point for me as it did for him.

    Up to then, I had only seen the B&W Samurai classics of the 50s and early 60s. The must-sees: not just Seven Samurai, but Yojimbo and Throne of Blood. The under-appreciated Sanjuro, and the light but enduring Hidden Fortress. This was my first non-samurai film from him. What I did not realise until later was that it was his career apotheosis.

    Red Beard is not Kurosawa's best film. Yet when it came out, it was a phenomenon much like Titanic 30 years later. It broke the bank, it was an exercise in unprecedented creative and financial power by a major filmmaker, and it appealed to filmgoers like few filmes before or since. Kurosawa built a hospice and miniature village for his characters to inhabit, and this episodic story of a young star doctor discovering a vocation among the poor under the gruff "red beard" (Mifune) feels all the more authentic for it. It is a film of such deliberate ease and confidence that it could only be made by this director, at this point in his career. It could not be anything less than the fullest exploration of his most cherished themes - social injustice, the redemptive power of human kindness, personal codes. It could also do nothing but foreshadow his decline.

    That's a lot of expectation to pile onto the unsuspecting viewer, so what do you get during those 3 hours? You get a first-class drama, Mifune's finest performance, and one of the most beautiful tear-jerkers ever to grace a screen. All the while, countless instances of technical brilliance remind you why this film could only be made by this director: a surgery covered in nothing but an extended closeup of the young doctor, an eerie seduction covered in an almost static, dreamlike wide shot, and, halfway through, the ass-kicking of a life-time and its touching follow-up.

    This is an extinct form of filmmaking, one preserved in the ember of its stark black-and-white film stock. The cinematic equivalent of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton: there are ways in which you won't relate, but it is daunting, powerful, and a journey into an intriguing other world well worth spending 3 hours in, and then some.
  • First of all let me say that this film is a real tear jerker. If you want to see a film that talks about compassion then you are going to want to see this film. In a world where pettiness abounds to see the big-hearted nature of the main characters and how such compassion literally changes people for the better -- you're going to want to see this film.

    For years I avoided this film (like IKIRU) because it was not a samurai film. But after getting over those ridiculous reasons, I finally figured I needed to complete my Kurosawa education by seeing it.

    And boy was I glad I did.

    It is one of those films that does change you. Like every classic it stands the test of time not because of its entertainment value but because it is a great experience. Even months after seeing the film the first time I found myself always examining my own life against the noble attitudes of the main characters.

    Yes, it's three hours long. And yes, you're going to want to spend time to digest it. But the three hours you devote to this film is worth it. If you loved TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, you're going to love this film.
  • In the Nineteenth Century, in Japan, the arrogant and proud just-graduated Dr. Noboru Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama) is forced to work in the Koshikawa Clinic, a non-profit health facility ruled by Dr. Kyojio Niide (Toshirô Mifune), a.k.a. "Red Beard". "Red Beard" is a good, sentimental, but also very firm, strong and fair man. While in the clinic, Dr. Yasumoto becomes responsible for healing the hurt teenager Otoyo (Terumi Niki), and he learns a lesson of humanity, becoming a better man.

    "Akahige" is another magnificent work of Master Akira Kurosawa. The touching and low-paced story is very beautiful, and shows the redemption of a spoiled man that becomes a human being, learning important and worthwhile values of life. It is almost impossible to highlight one individual performance in such a spectacular cast, but Toshirô Mifune shows his versatility in the role of the good "Red Beard". The 185 running time, with intermission, does not make any part of this interesting story boring, and this film is highly recommended for any sensitive audience. My vote is nine.

    Title (Brazil): "O Barba Ruiva" ("The Red Beard")
  • Akahige / Red Beard is 3 hours, 5 minutes long, but I strongly recommend it. It shows a definite maturity of style over Samurai (54), Throne of Blood (57), Yojimbo (61), to which it manages to subtly refer. In between was the slow-but-intense Crime/Class drama High and Low (63). Red Beard takes AK's observed modern style back to the feudal setting. One should set aside 4 hours for it, though, as you may need the break and, if you're like me, you'll want to see certain scenes again. Long composed/blocked shots and a "small" story make it seem slow, but I've found it fascinating all three times--rich in detail, with AK's familiar ensemble doing their best acting yet.
  • "Red Beard" is the noble conclusion to Kurosawa's monochrome period which undoubtedly contained his finest work. Although there were beautifully choreographed action scenes still to come in "Kagemusha" and "Ran", nothing was quite the same after this quiet meditation on the stirrings of humanity in a dark and otherwise uncaring world. The period is early 19th century, the place a hospital for the socially impoverished run by a doctor who manages to combine idealism and pragmatism, the two essential ingredients needed to facilitate the emergence of enlightenment. Although the great Toshiro Mifune dominates the film as the hospital head, it is the effect of his presence on the young doctor who pays him a visit that is the main theme of the narrative. Yasumoto, selfish and ambitious, has no intention to begin with of devoting his services to the hospital but one by one his defences collapse as he learns from the example of an idealist who has shed all vestiges of selfishness. There are constant reminders that medicine was at a rudimentary stage in its development and of the dedication needed by pioneers at a time when most answers still remained unknown and everything was largely a matter of easing rather than curing. I would not claim that "Red Beard" is among Kurosawa's half dozen greatest works. At just over three hours it sprawls in a discursive way. A lengthy flashback of a dying patient's reasons for seeking a form of absolution rather impedes the narrative flow in spite of some impressive visuals of snowscapes and an earthquake. But then the structure of the whole film rather has the episodic quality of a soap opera where momentum is maintained by proceeding from one crisis to another. Nevertheless it is full of wonderfully contrasted sequences from the knockabout humour of Mifune applying his medical skills to warding off a group of assailants by breaking their limbs like matchsticks to the tender scene of the young doctor being nursed back from sickness by the girl rescued from enslavement in a brothel. And then there is the rain. Where would a Kurosawa film be without those torrential downpours to remind us of the physical discomfiture that a journey towards enlightenment entails.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (spoiler warning)

    Motion picture enthusiasts would, at one time or another, ask themselves the agonizing question of which is their best-loved film. I have often done that. Although I cannot be absolutely certain, I'm inclined to choose Red Beard, with Hello Dolly and Judgement at Nuremberg as close contenders.

    If I am allowed to use only one word to describe this film, it will be "warm". From Akahige flows a warmth that can be said to be almost uncharacteristic of Kurosawa, or at least much more palpable than in any other of his films. This warmth is particularly seen in his portrayal of the "little people" (borrowed fom Bob Hope in the 1971 Oscar Award), at which Kurosawa is very good. The best example is in a scene close to the end.

    To set the scene, the young doctor played by Yuzo Kayamo has almost completed his transformation from a sceptical, arrogant apprentice to a humane, loyal disciple under the eccentric but effective training of the head of the hospital played by Toshiro Mifune. In turn, the young doctor is now helping with the tranformation of a juvenile prostitute (rescued by Toshiro Mifune) from a neurotic patient into a normal person. The example I have in mind is an episode between this girl and a small boy who has been driven to theft by poverty.

    While the girl is well on her way to recovery and helping with manual work in the hospital, she has difficulty winning the acceptance of her co-workers. The episode started when they catch sight of the little boy trying to steal rice, but fail to stop him. In the following day, the girl managers to corner the little guy in the hospital. The conversation that ensues would break a heart of steel. What we see is two innocent children talking about poverty, hunger and life in a matter-of-course manner, without any wailing, without any bitterness, without even a trace of sadness. At the end, she tells him not to steal any more and promises to bring him some food the following day.

    Unknown to them, the conversation is heard by some of the girl's co-workers, who end up in quiet sobs. The next day, at lunch, the girl tries to get an extra bowl of rice. One of the women who did not hear the conversation takes it away from her, claiming that she does not need that much. Those who heard the conversation the day before immediately snatch the rice back for the girl, claiming that she is a growing child and needs a lot of food. The scene is actually quite funny, and will have you laughing, but with a lump in your throat and mist in your eyes.

    There is so much about this film and I won't go into details. I must mention however the wonderful music, which also has a feeling of warmth consistent with the film. In particular, there is a hauntingly beautiful little tune accompanying throughout the young doctor's untiring, patient and caring effort to help the girl recover from her traumatic experience.

    Toshiro Mifune put up one of his best performances. Yuzo Kayama, a most popular star/idol at that time (comparable to Tom Cruise at his hay days) played his role as a solid, down-to-earth actor. All the numerous supporting roles were extremely well cast. Most significant, however, are the very minor roles (such as the labour women mentioned before) that are equally captivating, leaving a deep impression in the audience's mind. Therein lies Kurosawa's greatness.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ''Red Beard'' is a beautiful story and also a lesson of life.

    Noboru Yasumoto, a recent graduated Doctor who wishes to work for Shoguns, is assigned to work in a simple clinic, full of poor people. Arrogant,he only wants to be a rich and famous doctor,not caring for other's people health situation,sometimes even mocking them. Things start to change,during the days that Yasumoto stays in the clinic, and starts to know more about the poor people's problems and life. Also Dr. Niide, played by the great actor Toshiro Mifune, helps Yasumoto to understand the patients and the meaning of the word 'doctor'. Dr. Niide is a very fair and patient man, who genuinely worries about his patients, and sees them as people who needs help.

    It's beautiful to see Yasumoto's personal growth,from a doctor who doesn't care for the patients of the clinic, and only wants a good salary, to a man who cares and decides to stay working in the clinic to help people. It reminds me Musashi's story. (by the way, I highly recommend it for people who likes Japanese culture and enjoy those beautiful stories).
  • I never knew a movie could be so emotionally devastating, yet so spiritually uplifting at the same time. I watched it at my uncle's house (about an hour away from my home), and it was 9:00pm, I had so much work to do at home that night and after noticing the 3-hour length on the box (!!!), I thought I might as well leave for home half-way.

    I was so immersed in the story that I stayed the whole way and stayed at my uncle's place another half an hour just thinking about it.

    It did NOT feel like 3-hours at all. I cared so much about the characters that I could just watch another 3-hours of it if the story were to continue that way.

    Kurosawa is definitely a genius of 20's century filmmaking. This film is sheer power. Film buffs, do NOT miss this.
  • i watched this movie and enjoyed every single second of it. why is that? its simple, its a piece of art made from the great Kurosawa. i don't really know where too begin, so i will begin with the technical stuff. the movie is really well made, despite being made in the 60s. the shots are beautiful and you soon forget that it is in black/white, because of the great story. the story is like a really great book, with interesting characters. the plot and sub plots unfold them self in a beautiful way, and they keep you interested and wanting more. the characters are really well done. you really care about them, even the supporting ones. they grow and learn during the entire movie. i also like the performances, especially mifune, he does a really great job. so is there any negative things to say about it? no, not really. only that it is sad that the modern audience is not aware of it. because it still would work today. its either because most of Kurosawa's work is timeless, or because of his great impact on movie making. so 10/10, and please check more of Kurosawa's work out, you will not regret.
  • Adapted from the novel by Shugoro Yamamoto, Red Beard tells the story of Dr. Kyojio Niide (Red Beard) and his intern Dr. Noboru Yasumoto. Yasumoto has just arrived from Nagasaki, where he was learning medicine at a Dutch academy. Upon arriving at Red beard's clinic, he learns that he is to stay there (rather than to be called upon) as an intern. This angers him, for he had ambitions to be the doctor of the Shogun. The clinic is hardly a dream location. Plus, he isn't exactly too keen on Red Beard's "dictator" like rules. He becomes arrogant, and tries to break all the rules on purpose, so Red beard will send him away. But, in the process of facing the deaths of two of the clinic's patients, he starts to change and begins to learn the true beauty of life. He begins to understand Red Beard's non-conservative thinking.

    The story is basically a coming of age story of Yasumoto. After intermission, he begins to document the treatment of his first patient, Otoyo. She is a young girl that they rescued from a brothel. But, as he takes care of her, he falls sick. She begins to take care of him. In a way, they both were the needed cure for each other.

    Akira Kurosawa is most famous for his samurai/war films like Seven samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, or Ran. But here, we have a period piece that is not set as a samurai story. It is the simple story of a poor clinic and their struggles. An extremely personal film filled with beauty and emotion. The acting is some of the best you will ever see in a Kurosawa film. Mifune is excellent as the aging doctor as Yuzo Kayama is excellent as the young intern.

    If you can handle the length of three hours, then there is no reason why you should avoid this film. The pacing is excellent and the film flows very nicely. One of Kurosawa's best.

    9/10
  • barberoux16 October 2002
    "Red Beard" was a wonderful movie. The story was engaging and the acting superb. Two scenes stand out for me. The first was the "Mantis" scene with the seduction and assault on Dr. Yasumoto. Kyôko Kagawa as the Mantis was great in portraying her madness and the scene itself is an example of great film making. The other scene was the operation on the young woman. The actress who played the victim deserves praise for making it look like she was writhing in pain. What a striking scene. Toshirô Mifune was great as Red Beard and the rest of the cast were also outstanding. The acting by any of the characters in this movie far surpasses the narcissistic emoting of Hollywood films.
  • "Red Beard" was Akira Kurosawa final prayer for human kindness. Most of his previous work touched on this issue, especially "Ikiru", but this would be the last. Afterwards, his films grew dark in their examination of human weakness, and unable to see a good future for mankind. They also lost the talent of Toshiro Mifune; this too would be his last appearance in a Kurosawa film.

    The story is simple, almost elementary in its convention. In early 19th century Japan, the young, naïve doctor Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama) comes to work in a free health clinic. He accepts his post grudgingly, judging his surroundings to be beneath him. Through the instruction of an older doctor, the wise Red Beard (Mifune), and exposure to human suffering around him, he grows up and finds his place in the world of medicine. Although the plot seems predictable, the human emotion Kurosawa discovers is not.

    Each episode of the movie feels alive with emotion, alive with sorrow and with hope. Although the story surrounds Yasumoto with human suffering, it is not about suffering, but about learning step by step to find compassion. As we journey with Yasumoto through the story, we are also the ones being challenged.

    Modern life bombards us suffering on a global scale. We read headlines from around the world, know statics on poverty, wars, genocides, and natural disasters. We see the overwhelming tide of human weakness, and feel duly overwhelmed. Yet, it felt so refreshing to see a film with characters who did not know the statics, who only knew the hurting people in front of them. I felt challenged to know people the same way.
  • The story is about a young doctor who thinks a posting at a public medical clinic is below his station. But the gruff Red Beard teaches him a thing or two. The film endeavors to heighten awareness of human suffering. The viewer identifies with the young doctor and learns with him about the evils of the world and the ever-surprising lengths Red Beard goes to to mitigate them.

    There is ample humor, sparse dialogue, and excellent characterization. Cinematography and other finer features are somewhat pedestrian. Yet the film is touching and memorable. It is not melodramatic, cheap, or smarmy--it is one of the films whose appeal reaches other times and nations besides 1960s Japan.
  • In 1965 Kurosawa made Red Beard. It was that last time that his common leading man, Toshiro Mifune would appear in one of his films.

    Mifune plays the title character, Red Beard who is the head doctor in a government run clinic for the poor. One day a new intern, Dr. Noboru Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama) arrives at the clinic. He soon becomes angry and rebels against the rest in order to get thrown out of the clinic. He begins drinking heavily and refuses to wear his uniform. But soon, he realizes from his patients, himself, and most importantly Red Beard what it means to become a good doctor.

    Red Beard is a long film that clocks over three hours, but is never boring and carries a strong message of what it means to be human. The widescreen cinematography is astounding.
  • As good a director as he was, Kurosawa sometimes let his keenness to get a point across undermine the quality of his films. This is the case with Red Beard, a picture best known for being the last in a long line of collaborations with actor Toshiro Mifune.

    Kurosawa typically had a kind of mission statement with every film he made. During his 1960's output he appears to have become increasingly stubborn and obsessive in making a film for a reason. In the case of Red Beard, he was appalled at the number of poor quality ultra-violent Samurai flicks being churned out in the wake of his own recent action pictures, Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1963). As a backlash he decided to make a period picture with a peaceful, non-action theme, more of a pure drama. Furthermore, in an abandonment of the cynicism which had marked all his films from The Bad Sleep Well (1960) onwards, he declared that Red Beard was to be "a tribute to the goodness in humanity". There is nothing wrong with this is a basis for a film – it's just that Kurosawa tries too hard.

    Kurosawa was, or at least had been a director who handled emotional moments with skill. Consider for example the terminally ill hero in Ikiru (1952) drunkenly singing in the bar, or Kikuchiyo rescuing the baby in Seven Samurai (1954). Bearing these past triumphs in mind it's almost painful to see how he fails completely to achieve the same effect in Red Beard. Here the audience is practically bombarded with moments of strained poignancy. There is absolutely no subtlety, as one heavy-handed sob story after another is cranked out.

    The problem is further compounded by the fact that Red Beard is structured as a series of short stories with the same setting, as patients come and go at the hospital. It's really very difficult to share any feeling with the characters because we never really get to know them – we just hear about their past misery. Whenever characters cry (which happens all the time), it's difficult for the audience to connect to them. Eventually all the stories of grief and woe just start to sound ridiculous.

    Of course, there is one overarching storyline, that of the young doctor Yasumoto's transformation from being a selfish snob who resents having to treat poor people, to a dedicated professional who takes satisfaction in his work. This is for me the most satisfying and engaging part of the plot. The most uplifting moment in the film is when Yasumoto wears his uniform for the first time, and is immediately greeted with greater respect from both colleagues and patients.

    And, in spite of his poor judgement with the plot, Kurosawa's direction is still of good standard and there are plenty of marks of quality. He matches the warm, sensitive tone of the film with a delicate approach to his shot composition, and a slow and measured pace to each scene. In the first half of the film, he shows Yasumoto's feelings about having to work at the clinic by shooting the interiors in such a way that they appear cramped and confining. When Yasumoto dons his uniform the spaces begin to open out and a little more light is let in. There's also a sly nod towards Kurosawa and Mifune's earlier pictures in the film's only real action sequence. It's choreographed just like the frantic arm-chopping scene from Yojimbo, but rather than drawing a sword Mifune is instead twisting limbs and cracking bones in a completely bloodless fight.

    It's a pity that this was Mifune's swansong with Kurosawa, not just because it's a poorer film, but also because Mifune is somewhat sidelined to a secondary role (in spite of being the titular character), and it's not a performance where he really gets to flourish. While Mifune continued to be much in demand as an actor he only had a few memorable roles after this. Kurosawa's output slowed down considerably after Red Beard and it would be a long time before he was back on top form.
  • Watching "Red Beard" is a wonderful experience, so beautiful that memory of it still lingers in my mind. Everything I mean everything is so subtle, calm and human that one falls in love with it. One can fell the joy and pleasure in self.

    Direction is yet again top notch and Mifune' shows the world, again, that he is among the very best if not the best. Music needs special mention as it is the least bothered area in Kurosawa's movies. Every sub plot has its own density, cheers and insight into human social values. The way movie paces itself is brilliant. Kurosawa takes his time to establish his characters and once it is done emphasis shifted to story and sub-plots.

    On moral grounds it teaches us all that humanity is the only sky above all humans and one must not forget this fact.

    All technical aspects including camera handling, set designs, acting from supporting staff is very good. Wants to mention the acting of the little girl (I think Otoyo) is so close to life that it makes you believe of that.

    A must watch for everyone.

    9/10
  • Irradiata20 September 2006
    I just finished watching 'Red Beard' and feel that the characters are all old friends. It could be because the movie is 3 hours long, but it is probably more due to the skill of Akira Kurosawa and his meticulous craftsmanship.

    Some complaints of the film are that it is slow, too episodic, too much like TV medical dramas, it treats psychotherapy like the newfound Holy Grail (and in 1965 Japan it might have been), but the movie is so well done it doesn't really matter. Kurosawa considered 'Red Beard' his monument to the goodness of man, and it is inspiring in such a way.

    Toshiro Mifune is wonderfully restrained as 'Red Beard', but you know when he starts rubbing his chin, he's going to kick some ass, mostly verbally, but in one scene, physically; he beats the crap out of some thugs who don't want him to take a sick girl to his clinic. His character will cheat, lie and even charge exorbitant medical fees just to ensure goodness prevails and the patients of his medical clinic get the help they need. He also will speak his mind beyond that of a typical doctor; poor parents get chastised, the lazy rich get a dressing down, and even acknowledges that well-being is usually in the mind of the patient and sometimes the best doctor in the world cannot change that.

    As always, it's a shame Kurosawa and Mifune went their separate ways after this film, because they truly did bring out the best in one another.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Spoilers herein.

    Here we have another work by one of the the three top masters of film. It is uncomplicated and deep and highly regarded by many because of its accessibility and the high level of craft made obvious. But there is a deep problem here.

    One should say at the outset that even a problematic film by Kurosawa is still worth more than nearly everything else that enters the popular stream. But there was a reason Kurosawa collapsed after this. There is a reason it marks the end of an era.

    Kurosawa's anchor mastery is that he not only knows his way around the three disciplines of film (writing, dealing with actors, creating a vision), he knows how to fuse them. The more abstract the center of the story-vision, the more complete that fusion. But as his fame grew with his value to the studio, he came under greater pressure to be accessible and in this case he chose to explicitly moralize.

    That is where the disaster is rooted. In the past (and later) he was able to start with visual notions and build everything around that: the story, the noh-centric acting (except in terms of immediacy), and of course the moving frame we see. But this time, he reaches further than ever into the lowest common denominator of popular life. And unfortunately for us, that territory is exclusively literary. He borrows from Yamamoto and Dostoyevsky and gives us a series of episodes whose points we get, but by getting them, we place ourselves in a literary place in our mind, not a visual one.

    In other words, what makes him important is his ability to invest images with narrative. Go back and look at some of his early films with no sound or subtitles. You can completely get it. The words are only there to mollify our brain. Now flash forward to this. What we have is an illustrated book, where all the narrative motion is in the spoken exposition. The difference in center is startling.

    No question that the pictures are still masterful. Still highly formal in composition and more importantly in the motion of the camera. But the pictures are now in service to the story (the way more mundane directors work) rather than the other way around. One still marvels at the eye, especially the shot where the new doctor is engaged with the mad woman, but at the same time, one grieves that the Master has lost his center.

    What's left is a long, slow journey back to the triumph of `Ran,' made ever so more important because of this voyage of the creative soul to recapture itself. Just as depicted in that film.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
  • Indeed, if there ever was one movie I would recommend to an aspiring doctor, it would be that three-hour Japanese 19th century drama. The film teaches humility and empathy, in a discipline where any feeble soul would easily be lured into arrogance and confidence to belong to a privileged class and intellectual elite. It's the perfect antidote against a conception of medicine as an instrument of social ascension, betraying its very purpose, something deeply rooted in humanity's instinct for survival which, over history, didn't only mean curing the body, but the soul as well. Medicine doesn't always prevent death but if one could die in happiness, then somewhat the job was done.

    So we're in 1965, in a two-decade career that counts at least five other masterpieces, Kurosawa, at his artistic peak, had reached the kind of peaceful maturity that invites the crucial question: "now, what?" And when an artist starts questioning his mortality, generally looks for the right canvas to draw the right existential questions and allow the viewers to see shades of truths not through preachy monologues but characters whose actions would speak statements about the value of life, and death for that matter. Indeed, behind every agonizing patient, there's a story. A final breath is only the 'last' link of a chain that crossed both muds and gardens. At 55, Kurosawa didn't know he had still three decades to live, and took the opportunity of "Red Beard" to question existence through the intertwining lives of people in a free public clinic for the poor, they're young, old, living and dying and all have epiphanies of some sorts.

    The film probably features one of the richest galleries of characters ever, there's absolutely no small role. I found myself surprisingly absorbed by the story of an elderly painter, abandoned by his wife and children, and whose final breaths were so excruciating they deserve a few words. So many films never dare to show death at its most straightforward state, you always see it from the observer's eye, one head gesture can signify that the beloved one has moved on, or sometimes, the final breath looks like falling to sleep, peacefully. Kurosawa doesn't sugarcoat it, death is disturbing, made of ugly noises and gasps and gulps. But death is still seen from the eye of the living, as if it meant a deliverance to the death and a transfer of pain to the living, a torch-passing moment so to speak. Emotional pain can either be driven by grief for the mourners or self-disappointment for the gruff head of the clinic, 'Red Beard', who realizes the limitations of science, if not his competence, and if it's not for the misery or ignorance of his patients, some would survive.

    "Red Beard" is nicknamed so because of his unpronounceable name and the reddish beard he harbors the beard enhances his credibility as an authority figure and I must say the way Toshiro Mifune kept rubbing it reminded me of Takashi Shimura caressing his bald head in "Seven Samurai" one decade earlier. The disciple, the impetuous seventh Samurai gained maturity and became the natural born leader who speaks a few words but each with the resonance of a chapter of wisdom, Kurosawa and Mifune couldn't find a better way to conclude their partnership. Mifune started in "Drunken Angel" as a cocky young criminal who challenged a doctor (Shimura), talk about coming full-circle. Red Beard is the voice of reason of the film, a 'Godfather' figure, a living paradox: humble and modest but powerful enough to summon an overweight lord or bribe a banker, noble enough to take an underage prostitute under his protection but practical enough to know you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs (or bones) when the brothel thugs confront him.

    In a scene of startling (and amusing) brutality but beautifully choreographed, he takes each man one by one and break their bones. He didn't seek brutality; it was the only way to take the young Otoyo from the paws of her madam. When neutralized, he checked each wound and told his assistant Yasumoto (Yuso Kayama) to heal them, because a good doctor shouldn't have done what he did. And as we're drawn into his practical philosophy, we also follow with fascinated eyes the metamorphosis of Yasumoto, from an arrogant and embittered little snob who resented the stinking place and its Spartan regime and acted like an immature contrarian to a man who could touch the true essence of medicine. The apprenticeships took many steps such as falling in the seductive trap of a dangerous nymphomaniac, fainting during a gruesome operation, witnessing a man's death or hearing the story of one of the most revered patients of the block.

    It's the young prostitute subplot that will affect Yasumoto more profoundly in a way I won't spoil because it involves an interesting role switching and introduces a young little thief who'll allow the previously shell-shocked Otoyo to bloom into a protective mother figure. And that's the key of Red Beard's conception of medicine, it's the very knowledge of these limitations that forces the doctor to know about his patients and to let them know each other, because in each story, we can find keys that open closed doors inside our own souls. The film might be three-hour long but it was the only sustainable length for such a film that give a substantial role to everyone: doctors, patients and even the kitchen staff.

    "Red Beard" is an optimistic ode to life and humanity, sublimated by a beautiful black-and-life photography with the bold starkness of a Caravaggio painting or the contemplative melancholy of a Bergman movie and a lighting that makes eyes look so eerily alive, maybe because they saw too much of death. There's no white uniform in "Red Beard", no stethoscope, certainly no sexy nurse and nothing in the vicinity of the medical world as we perceive it but it's certainly the best film about medicine.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Another masterpiece from Akira Kurosawa, which will definitely grant you an unforgettable experience and bulk of emotions and thoughts. I have never written a review for the movie before; however, truly 'Red Beard' needs to be reviewed for a couple of reasons. It can be seen that Kurosawa continued to promote humanism through his works. He puts a great effort to change the world by making it more peaceful and kind. In this case, we have two main characters Dr. Kyojô Niide, or Red Beard and Dr. Noboru Yasumoto, young intern who will be under Red Beards' supervision. RB's glance is very impressive. The idea that the bigger issue comes from the poverty and our souls, and that mostly these lead to admission to hospital and negative influence on our physical body. What about Yasumoto, Yûzô Kayama has excellently shown the evolution of a character from egoistic intern to the experienced and highly moral Doctor. Likewise, other secondary actors beautifully portrayed a folk who live in poverty. Besides, all the stories covered until the end are really making you contemplative.

    The moment when RB is fighting with men from the whorehouse and episode when he is giving medicine to the young girl whom they have taken from that despicable place is extremely spectacular method to show the balance between what is wrong and right. Notwithstanding, through the entire film we see what it means to be a real man. Huge thanks to Toshirô Mifune, who has done a splendid job, as in other movies too. Additionally, I will never forget the way he is waving his beard. It should be one of the best moments captured from this gracious, simple, but life film. If you want to watch Japanese classic movies, first, you should go through all the Kurosawa & Mifune movies combination, because there is a magnificent chemistry that makes their film so attractive and engaging. By the way, it is the last time when Mifune is acting in Kurosawa's movie.

    The major misconception here is that it is not regarded as a top five movie produced by Kurosawa or maybe of the entire Eastern classic.

    Lastly, this mastery is the product of brilliant acting, verified directory and good cinematography. Recommend you to watch and probably it will change you and the way you see this world.
  • Definitely superior to Seven Samurai, RB is now my 2nd-favourite Kurosawa film (narrowly behind his superb "Scandal" (1950) ).

    This is the work of a director in complete control. The great script is sprawling and, in the hands of a lesser mortal, could have turned into a sentimental or even maudlin mess. Like many of AK's pieces starring Mifune, the story is essentially an ensemble work. We are lead into patient's case histories and their life stories (one of which even goes into flashback within flashback). Dr Niide aka Red Beard seems to be half-healer, half psychoanalyst, as he "see into men's hearts".

    Something no other reviewer has yet commented on is the humour. Yes, this is serious drama, but contain plenty of laughs. Right from the opening scene, where the horrified medical graduate is taken, step by depressing step, into the place he has been tricked into taking and the trap which will prevent him from escape, you really feel his growing anxiety, and the buildup is very funny in a grim sort of way. Then there's the scene where Kurosawa does a brief Bruce Lee impression, systematically breaking the limbs of a gang of toughs who try to prevent him taking a sick you girl out of a brothel. The hilarious part is what follows, as RB loudly berates himself for acting in a manner not suited to one of his profession, and that perhaps he went a bit too far. You've just gotta see this scene to fully appreciate it. And there are more.

    As we've come to expect from AK, the acting is uniformly excellent. Particularly chilling was the mad woman, in the short scene where she enters the young doctor's room. Slowly, we are show why she was nicknamed "The Mantis". And the girl who plays Otoyo is just as good (and what happened to her ? IMDb records only one other film for her).

    Criticisms ? Only minor ones. This film could be read as a cliched "triumph of the human spirit" saga, and the ending especially leans a bit on the syrupy side. If you lost concentration for awhile, the sprawl of the story might get you a bit lost.

    But don't let this put you off. This is a truly great film, and a definite must-see.
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