11 June 2007

Stray Dog

I had a terrible time trying to get to sleep last night. My entire back felt like it was hosting a party of fleas or fire ants. I suppose it itched since my sunburn is starting to heal. It's still painful to the touch, however, so whenever I went to scratch at my itch, the sunburn would give me a sharp pain. I took a shower at 2 :00 a.m. and decided to watch a movie until I got sleepy enough to fall asleep quickly.

I watched Stray Dog, which I just bought recently. It was really fantastic.

The story follows Toshiro Mifune's character Murakami, a homicide detective, through the slums and blackmarkets of Japan as he tries to recover his Colt pistol which was stolen from his pocket on a crowded bus. He is paired with long-time cop Sato, played excellently by Shimura. This pistol is linked to a couple of crimes, including a murder. Murakami is racked with guilt and takes responsibility for each crime commited with his lost gun, a very honorable Japanese attitude. Eventually, in a beautiful climax, Murakami wrestles with Yusa, the stray dog criminal, and makes his arrest.

This film was slightly neo-realist in its documentary-like feel. Kurosawa went to actual black markets in Japan and other street locations to expose the conditions of a post-World War II Japan.

As always with Kurosawa, there is a great many philosophical questions involved with the film's story. What is the nature of good and evil? When is crime justified? In the climax we see Yusa and Murakami both covered in mud and exhausted after running through some grassy area behind a town. They lay panting heavily and are almost indistinguishable. Really they are the same - they are both men of post-World War II who had fought in the war and felt their life disarrayed - only they chose different paths.

One of my favorite things about this film was watching Toshiro Mifune act in a role other than a samurai. This was my first time seeing him without a kimono or armor. I felt like he is really up there with Brando, Grant, Peck, Newman in those classic male movie stars with a face and presence that just vibrates with so much energy on the screen. I really saw that especially in this film in his white linen suit and clean cut face.