Stray Dog (1949)

Conversely, Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog comes nearer the start of his lengthy career, and where the tone of Ozu’s film can be called bittersweet, this one is just bitter, with a dark feeling that goes beyond just the murky DVD transfer; Kurosawa wades into genre film waters with this tale of a Tokyo cop whose gun is nicked by a pickpocket and his quest to retrieve same. I frankly didn’t recognise Toshiro Mifune as the cop at first; amazing to be reminded that he actually was young and clean-shaven once (he already looks a lot older in Rashomon just a year later). For me, though, the film doesn’t really hit stride until about a third of the way through when his co-star Takashi Shimura enters the scene; I can’t pin down exactly why but there’s something about the Mifune character that would’ve made it harder to spend the film only in his company, he needs Shimura to offset him. But on the whole I thought it was quite good, though not quite the masterwork other critics claim it to be.

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