Akira Kurosawa (Japan, 1950)
(Shubun). Kurosawa turns his sights on one of the less wondrous aspects of Japan’s postwar recovery—the Americanized tabloid press—in this energetic vehicle for a spectacularly charismatic Toshiro Mifune. Busy painting expressionist landscapes and revving up his fancy motorcycle, the freewheeling artist Aoye (Mifune) suddenly finds himself the center of a fake affair made up by a scandal-seeking gossip magazine. Contacted by a down-at-heels attorney (the great Takashi Shimura) whose “office” is a rooftop shack, Aoye soon hires the desperate lawyer to represent him against the magazine sleazehounds, and befriends the man’s angelic, tubercular daughter. Inspired by the social-commentary films of Frank Capra, Scandal is one of Kurosawa’s most intriguing, polished works, a combination of Hollywood sheen, Mifune masculinity, and some surprisingly sorrowful moments, such as a community of drunkards’ sad Christmas chorus, or a moonlit walk home among all the stars in the gutter. Lead actress Yoshiko Yamaguchi later embarked on her own Hollywood career, as Shirley Yamaguchi.
• Written by Kurosawa, Ryuzo Kikushima. Photographed by Toshio Ubukata. With Toshiro Mifune, Yoshiko Yamaguchi, Takashi Shimura, Yoko Katsuragi. (104 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Janus/Criterion Collection)