in about 100 words or less
Japan 185m, B&W
Director: Akira Kurosawa; Cast: Toshirō Mifune, Yūzō Kayama, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Reiko Dan, Kyōko Kagawa, Terumi Niki, Miyuki Kuwano, Tatsuyoshi Ehara
Dr. Kyojō Niide, aka “Red Beard” is a feared but respected physician who runs a local health clinic for the poor. He takes on Yasumoto – a young doctor as a new assistant who would rather be working for a Shogunate as a personal physician. Although Yasumoto initially despises his placement at the clinic, he soon realizes how much he has to learn from his senior mentor. Despite the great amount of personal tragedy within the story, the film is surprisingly uplifting and even darkly humorous at times. The film’s strength can be attributed to the very credible character development which sees the selfish Yasumato become a compassionate doctor under expert but unorthodox tutelage. Red Beard’s conduct, including the warning: “You know, a bad doctor can kill you. I won’t kill you, but I might break a couple of arms or legs” – which he offers to a group of thugs who threaten his personal safety – is one of many truly memorable scenes in a most satisfying and heart warming examination of human compassion, social justice and personal development (Klaus Ming January 2011).