Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stray Dog (1949)

WHO: Akira Kurosawa directed this.

WHAT: Though I've gotten lots of pleasure from watching Kurosawa's samurai films, over the years my favorite of all his films (so far- I've still yet to see a few from his first and final years of filmmaking) must be this story of a police detective named Murakami (played by Toshiro Mifune) who loses his gun and conducts an exhaustive search of a sweltering Tokyo in order to find it. Although it's about as taut in story construction as Kurosawa could be, Stray Dog uses real location shooting of the cityscape before economic development came to post-war Japan in earnest, thus preserving as a kind of time capsule urban landscapes that reflected the characters, themes and style of the film nearly perfectly. No wonder it's the sole Kurosawa film profiled in the book World Film Locations: Tokyo. Here's a brief excerpt from John Berra's article on the film:
Murakami's self-ssigned mission takes him to Ameyokocho where, disguised as an unkempt ex-soldier, he wanders around, attempting to establish the necessary lead. This lengthy sequence was shot by second unit director Ishiro Honda, who his his handheld camera in a box as a means of capturing footage of Tokyo's seedy underbelly that would work within Kurosawa's film noir framework. 
WHERE/WHEN: Tonight only at the Pacific Film Archive at 8:30 PM.

WHY: Kurosawa based Stray Dog on a novel he wrote in the style of French detective novel pioneer Georges Simenon, thus the PFA has included it as the second of twelve titles in its current series Dark Nights: Simenon and Cinema. Compared to the other eleven, its inclusion is perhaps a stretch, as the rest of the titles co-curated by the PFA's Kathy Geritz and by Jed Rapfogel of Anthology Film Archives (which will bring the eleven non-Kurosawas as well as three more films to New York later this summer) are adaptations of particular Simenon stories and not just pastiches. But any excuse to show Stray Dog is okay by me, especially when it brings an Asian perspective into a series otherwise built exclusively on films by directors from Europe (Marcel Carné, Claude Chabrol, Béla Tarr, etc.) and the U.S. (Burgess Meredith, Phil Karlson, etc.)

HOW: 35mm print

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