Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 310 - Stray Dog

Stray Dog (1949) directed by Akira Kurosawa

Stray Dog is a film noir police procedural that shows off Kurosawa's strong storytelling and style. It also features a great performance by Toshiro Mifune in one of his earlier roles. Here he plays Murakami, a rookie cop who gets his gun stolen on a crowded bus in the beginning of the film. Ridden with guilt and shame, he is determined to find his gun before it is used for harm rather than good. When a crook gets a hold of it he uses it in a series of murders, it drives Murakami to the brink of insanity as he attempts to stop him.

The main theme of the film is the difference between guilt and responsibility. Murakami feels responsible for everything that the crook does with his gun, almost as if he were the one pulling the trigger himself. This guilt is a heavy and unreasonable burden that he places upon himself. His partner Sato points out to him that if it wasn't his gun it would have been someone else's, but he is inconsolable regarding this fact. The next step then for Murakami is to stop feeling sorry for himself and do his job, catch the bad guy. Mifune displays a remarkable determination and intensity in his portrayal of Murakami though it is the different kind of ferocity than his roles of Rashomon and Seven Samurai. In Stray Dog, he holds much of it back and you can sense the tension and anxiety build up inside of him. Kurosawa makes sure to use plenty of closeups to capture Mifune's facial expressions and particularly his eyes. This film is more about his character's emotional journey than the police procedural itself.

As with many of Kurosawa's works there is the master/student father/son relationship. Here it is seen in the relationship between Murakami and his older partner Sato. Sato is played by ubiquitous Takashi Shimura who starred in even more of Kurosawa's movies than Mifune, though to perhaps less acclaim. The two actors had a similar dynamic in their first pairing in the movie Drunken Angel.

Another theme that Kurosawa uses in other films is the use of weather, particularly the sweltering heat and torrential rain. It is a way of highlighting the emotion and sentiment going on. This is a sweat drenched picture as all the characters are dripping in it, with beads of sweat dripping down foreheads and shirts soaked. The rainstorms come at the breaking point when the heat has become overwhelming and ready to explode, coming at a key plot turn of the film.

Stray Dog is an earlier Kurosawa picture though even at this early stage it was clear he was one of the most talented directors in the world.

Grade: B+

No comments:

Post a Comment