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Red Beard (The Criterion Collection)

84 customer reviews

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(Jul 16, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

A testament to the goodness of humankind, Akira Kurosawa's Red Beard (Akahige) chronicles the tumultuous relationship between an arrogant young doctor and a compassionate clinic director. Toshiro Mifune, in his last role for Kurosawa, gives a powerhouse performance as the dignified yet empathic director who guides his pupil to maturity, teaching the embittered intern to appreciate the lives of his destitute patients. Perfectly capturing the look and feel of 19th-century Japan, Kurosawa weaves a fascinating tapestry of time, place, and emotion.

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital transfer, with restored image and sound and enhanced for widescreen televisions
  • Notes by Japanese film historian Donald Richie

Product Details

  • Actors: Toshirô Mifune, Yuzo Kayama, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Reiko Dan, Miyuki Kuwano
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: July 16, 2002
  • Run Time: 185 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000067IY6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,129 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Red Beard (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 27, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
While the film is long, as many other reviewers have pointed out, it is not too long. It holds up, better than many contemporary American films with the same running time. This film wonderfully displays the silent grace and dignity Mifune plays so well. To see just how good he actually is, watch this, then watch Seven Samurai. His range is incredible. Every one of his characters is so different, all the way down to their walk. But, back to Red Beard. Like all Kurosawa films, there are some very memorable shots stylistically, and the acting is top-notch. There are many stories within the main plot, and they are all tied together very well. It isn't like a vignette piece. Each of the characters is related in one way or another. This is definitely an emotional tale, and made me feel for the characters and cheer for the compassion one human being can show to another. There isn't much humor here, like some of his other films, but it really isn't called for. If you come across the DVD from Mei-ah, do not buy it. The subtitles are horribly translated.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Charles Hugh Smith on May 16, 2006
Format: DVD
You often hear "They don't make movies like this anymore," and in this case I believe it's true. With "Red Beard," Kurosawa has tackled a subject which in past eras was coated with schmaltz, and in the current state of cinema, is avoided altogether: the nature of individual goodness in the face of want, inequality and privilege. Modern-day film makers in the West seem fearful of any emotions other than romantic desire, violent retribution or a "hip" self-referencing irony/ennui. Here, Mifune portrays a man who distains admiration for his own sacrifices while adhering to his own high standards of individual behavior. He's not above wheedling and even a bit of suggestive blackmail to raise funds for his clinic. In typical Mifune fashion, he manages to make a nearly saintly doctor an anti-hero who rubs almost everyone the wrong way.

The film is shot in black-and-white, and features many haunting images. Of special note is the scene in which Mifune attempts to break through the protective shell of an abandoned young girl. A young doctor has been trying to give her a spoonful of medicine; he quits after she slaps his hand away three times. Mifune takes over, and the girl continues to slap the proffered medicine away-- once, twice, trice; Mifune expresses an array of emotions in the simple act of trying once again. Finally, on the seventh attempt, the girl accepts the medicine. The quiet authenticity of this moment is rare in film.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By manicsounds on May 4, 2003
Format: DVD
I dare you people out there. Kurosawa's most inspiring work is one breathtaking 3 hour ride into the hearts and minds of clinical doctors that has still not been matched by any ER episode. Every frame in this piece looks and feels beautiful, and thank you to Criterion for doing so. I haven't seen a Kurosawa film that has been remastered to this degree. It will be a hard one to follow-up on quality. I actually would recommmend this film to people who loved Amelie. Why? Both are incredibly inspiring movies, but Red Beard is on the other side of the spectrum. It deals with death, despair, incurable illness within the heart, but by the end of the film, you are more inspired by the will to live, to make something of yourself that you never felt before. That is what Kurosawa wanted to make, and he truly went for it on his last black and white film. The irony of what happens 5 years later. He was only human as we were. We love and miss you Kurosawa-Kantoku.
Best shot/sequence:
Here's where Kurosawa does his best. The scene where Chobo is dying and the maids are yelling down the well, the camera tilts down from the faces of the maids into the reflection of water at the bottom of the well, but gives the illusion that the camera has shifted to the bottom of the well looking up at the maids. With a single teardrop from Otoyo hitting the face of the water, then we realize that the camera is actually hidden above them. Genuine masterwork.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gerald J. Nora on September 11, 2006
Format: DVD
While a Kurosawa fan, I had largely only seen his samurai epics, with "Rashomon" being the notable exception. When I saw he made a film about medicine, it piqued my curiosity and I am much richer for it.

In the movie, an arrogant young physician, Dr. Yasumoto unwilling works in a charity clinic with Dr. Niide, a.k.a., "Red Beard", who is played by Toshiro Mifune in his last role in a Kurosawa film.

This film is also the last black and white movie Kurosawa shot, and is a beautiful coda to this phase of Kurosawa's work. The use of lighting in particular has great symbolic and aesthetic effect as we watch Dr. Yasumoto learn medicine and compassion under Red Beard's tutelage.

Kurosawa does not pull many punches with 19th Century medicine: we sit with the physicians as they listen to the final breaths of a dying patient and watch a woman thrash against restraints as Red Beard operates on her in an era without anesthetics. We hear stories of sexual abuse and see all the warts of human existence, but we do so with a tough compassion and charity that is profoundly stirring.

Kurosawa is not just a great director and artist, but a skilled psychologist and lover of mankind. This movie deserves to be ranked with other Kurosawa masterpieces like the Seven Samurai, Ran, and Rashomon.
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