Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

“Red Beard,” a wonderful movie by Akira Kurosawa — and the Criterion Channel’s free trial with suggestions for use

with 4 comments

I just watched Red Beard, a long (3 hours) B&W movie, Kurosawa’s last movie with Toshiro Mifune and also his last in the cinematic widescreen ratio of 2.35 to 1. (He moved to a more moderate ratio to be more accommodating to television: 1.8 to 1).

The movie is about a medical clinic for the poor in 19th century Japan, and it is in effect a big ensemble effort with many characters playing out their stories. One advantage of the movie’s length is that it provides time for us to see gradual change in characters. Indeed, it’s like a lengthy 19th century novel (think Dickens’s Great Expectations, for example).

I don’t want to spoil the movie, but I do highly recommend it. I’m now going to watch it again because, having seen it once, I’ll know better what to look for so I’m sure I’ll see more on a second viewing. But I will mention one them.

“Red Beard” is the nickname given to Toshiro Mifune’s character, the somewhat gruff but wise and insightful doctor who runs the clinic. Obviously, given the setting, the idea of curing people is much in the foreground. One thing that comes through, as we see it in various people and contexts, is that forgiving is curative. People  infected with anger or frustration or sadness can cure themselves through understanding (and thus forgiving) the offender. This forgiveness may not help the offender, but it does help cure the forgiver by relieving them of the burden of negative thoughts and emotions.

A very good film — and on the Criterion Channel you can also watch it with a good commentary.

You can enjoy the Criterion Channel for two weeks free with a trial membership, so that’s what I’m doing now. I enjoyed rewatching Hopscotch (Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Sam Waterson, Ned Beatty, and Herbert Lom, among others), and I’m going to see again The Makioka Sisters, which I was very impressed with when I saw it in the 1980s. And Videodrome, a very weird David Cronenberger film (that’s somewhat redundant) with James Woods. And… well, there’s quite a list.

I highly recommend the two-week Criterion Channel free trial just to see some of these movies. You can cancel after a couple of days (from the dropdown list by your name), and they’ll still allow you to continue watching for the full two weeks. This tactic is not a cheat — they want you to use the two-week free trial. That’s why they offer it.

I found their “All Films” list not very browse-friendly, but you can filter it by genre, decade, etc. One good way to pick films is to go to Amazon and search “Criterion Collection,” which will bring up a lot of titles with descriptions. You can then search the titles you want on the Criterion Channel (though they’re not all there: the Before Trilogy (Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight) is in the Amazon list but not available on the Channel. Still, it’s an easy way to find possibilities.

UPDATE: And another film you definitely should watch: “Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers,” a 50-minute film on garlic (which I eat at pretty much every meal).

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2020 at 10:43 am

Posted in Movies & TV

4 Responses

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  1. RAN de Akira Kurosawa, es recomendable … es el tema eterno de la fidelidad y la traicion , mucho mejor que Hamlet ..


    26 November 2020 at 12:40 pm

  2. Ran is based pretty directly on King Lear, and it’s a fine movie. The Criterion Collection commentary does point that heroes, in the sense of those in Red Beard and earlier Kurosawa movies, are not to be found in the movies made after Red Beard.


    26 November 2020 at 12:45 pm

  3. Have you seen the film Red Cliff, it’s Chinese with sub titles. It’s long but depicts a fantastic strategic battle which I won’t describe in more detail as this would spoil the film. I’ve seen it 4 times and still see different things each time.


    26 November 2020 at 1:05 pm

  4. Yes, I saw that in the long version. (There’s an abridged version as well.) I highly recommend Red Beard, then watch the commentary, then see it again. I did that with Sanjuro, another Kurosawa film starring Mifune, and the commentary film companion is narrated by Stephen Prince and is quite enlightening.


    26 November 2020 at 2:05 pm

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