Customer Reviews: Akira Kurosawa's The Quiet Duel
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VINE VOICEon January 3, 2007
BCI are quickly becoming one of the best sources for offbeat Japanese films. THE QUIET DUEL was the only film directed by Akira Kurosawa with music by Akira Ifukube (Godzilla). Until this DVD release, it was also the only Kurosawa title that I did not have in some form, and I'm pleased to report that, while not in the league of IKIRU or SEVEN SAMURAI, THE QUIET DUEL is still well worth seeing, and a must for all devotees of the great Toshiro Mifune. He is fine in this early role as a medical doctor who makes a tragic error. Also on hand is Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura, who was so memorable in IKIRU. Altough this film is far from the director's best, even lesser Kurosawa is eminently recommendable, and the many fans of Maestro Ifukube will certainly want to check this out. The picture quality is fine, no problems with the disc, packaging is outstanding and the price is about half of what Criterion would ask...Thank you, BCI!
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VINE VOICEon January 18, 2007
The Quiet Duel has many of the Kurosawan hallmarks: conflicted characters, a character that learns and changes and grows (in this case, it is the female nurse who grows most dramatically)and our favorites: Takeshi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune!

Flawed, sure. And, my respects to the composer, but the "mutual multiplier effect" (Kurosawa's term for it) of the extra-diagetic with the, unfortunately, maybe not working at top form, here. In fact, there is one strangley intrusive music box that nearly spoils the scene of confrontation and confession between Shimura and Mifune. I cannot fault the composer, who confessed that he did not get along as well with Kurosawa as some others. I do not doubt the man's integrity or sesitivity. I do think film is a collaborative process.

Still, one learns so much from an early film. I see the kernal of an idea for Red Beard in much of this film. And, despite any criticism, Red Beard is a profoundly moving piece of cinema. It is instructive to view The Quiet Duel, then Red Beard to see the master's growth. If you are a Kurofan, this DVD will be a welcome addition to your knowledge and collection of the master's work!
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VINE VOICEon August 9, 2008
I begin with a disclaimer; I'm sure I would never have heard of, let alone seen, "The Quiet Duel" if it hadn't been an early Akira Kurosawa movie. This movie would very likely never been made available in English sub-titles nor probably been on any late-night Japanese TV station. However, the fame of its' director legitimately made this a movie worth seeing. Let me restate that; The skill of its' director made this a movie worth viewing 60+ years after it was made.

There is a dramatic quality in the script and acting that shows a serious director was in charge of this film. The subject matter was risque for its' time and place. That required a fair degree of discretion and subtlety which Kurosawa provided. Rather than the old "I got it from a toilet seat" routine, we see the events leading up to the syphylis infection of a Japanese combat doctor in 1944. Its' innocence is essetial to the plot. This is a morality tale of innocence unable to defend itself. The characters are all very real and display a variety of morals and perspectives. The hero of our story is a difficult one to empathise with. His steadfast adherance to his self-denial effects many around him. There are many issues that arise and we are left having to accept that not all of life's problems result in happy endings. However, we still get to view a somewhat silver lining.
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I have often heard of "The Quiet Duel" as one of the lesser of Kurosawa's films, that there was something about it that just didn't quite work. Surely, it is not of the same caliber as Seven Samurai or Ikiru, but after seeing it, and finding out what an excellent film it is, I think its reputation is undeserved.

This is Kurosawa's ninth film as full director, and his second collaboration with the power combo of Shimura Takeshi and Mifune Toshiro. It tells the story of a doctor, brilliant and willful, who is infected with syphilis while saving a patients life on the battlefield. At this time in history, syphilis cures were chancy at best, often hurting the patient more than if they had just been left alone. It was basically the death sentence that AIDs is today, carrying the same stigmatism. The doctor knows he has a death sentence, and must distance himself from his girlfriend or all meaningful human contact, in order not to infect someone else with the dread disease.

"The Quiet Duel" revisits some of the themes from his previous work, Drunken Angel. However, whereas "Drunken Angel" had the doctor as a flawed character, "The Quiet Duel" presents him as a tower of heroic strength; almost able to withstand without regret the cruel fate he has been inflicted with. In an impulsive moment, to save a man's life, he loses everything of meaning and must endure what his life has become as a result.

The slight and apparent flaw in the film is that Mifune's doctor keeps operating on patients even though he is infected. He shies from all human touch save the inside of an operating theater, but one can't help but wonder how easy it would be for one of his gloves to break and the disease to slip into a patients body. I thought this should have been addressed better, but as it is suspension of disbelief has to come into play.

Even more than "Drunken Angel", Mifune's acting skills and shear screen power come out to play here. His doctor is a far cry from his slick gangster, and shades of the Red Beard he will become are apparent. Shimura has a lesser supporting role, as would always be the case when the powerhouse of Mifune takes the screen, but he brings a lightness and human element that would be otherwise missing. There is one scene that is just amazing...but I don't want to ruin it for you. Just watch it, and you will see.

This DVD includes some really nice interviews from cinematographer Setsuo Kobayashi, actress Miki Sanjo and composer Akila Ifukube. While not quite up to par with the Criterion Collection releases, it is still a fantastic DVD.
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The front of war is in plain development in 1944. A doctor is trying to save the life of a seriously wounded man, but what he ignores is that man is infected of syphilis. At the middle of the surgeon, he will suffer a slight incision with the same bistoury and so he will be infected with this painful and terrible disease.

Before the war began, he was engaged with a beautiful and kind manners, but once the war is over, he simply decides to hide the true reason that makes him to change his decision to marry her.

That's the moral dilemma he confronts. Must he to silence the awful truth or on the contrary to cancel the engagement to give her another opportunity to be happy?

Once more, we are in front not only of one of the most original films ever made, but with this release Kurosawa proves once more, why he was one of the most remarkable filmmakers ever born.

Make yourself a favour; don't miss it.
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on March 3, 2009
"The Quiet Duel" has sometimes been called one of Kurosawa's less effective films, and yet most directors would have been proud to claim it. The acting and staging are superbly believable throughout, all the way from a wartime field hospital which lacks almost all supplies, to moments of both hope and anguish in a peacetime health clinic. I have only one--well, two--questions about the plot. Mifune's young doctor has caught syphilis when his glove breaks during an operation. He doesn't know his patient is infected, and rather than allow him to die, he continues the operation bare-handed. Even when the doctor tests positive for syphilis, it's understandable that a field hospital would have few or no supplies to treat it. The point is made that the doctor has to go for two years without treatment, because it's wartime. However, the rest of the movie takes place in peacetime, in a major city, when Japan was under American occupation. By this time powerful antibiotics had been developed in the West which were capable of treating syphilis. Would a doctor really have been unaware of these advances in medicine, and would the antibiotics really be unavailable to him?

The second point is just a fan's frustration with the young doctor's refusal to tell his poor fiance why he couldn't marry her. There are several scenes in which she begs him to give his reason.Although an honest explanation would have made her sad, she seemed to suffer much more from his non-response. "Just tell the poor girl and get it over with!"

The acting is excellent throughout, but there's one scene in which Mifune blazes with brilliance. The tortured young doctor breaks down and fully reveals, for just a few minutes, how much the disease has cost him. Heart-breaking and stunning.
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on June 7, 2012
The film's black and white morality play, set in an almost junior high school venereal disease film setting, inspires some unexpected laughs, such as when a boy, suffering from an appendicitis, is told he needs to pass gas before he will know if the operation is successful. The boy asks what passing gas means, and others tell him it means to fart. Later, his whole room cheers when he farts. Such antics are obvious nods to the familial comedies of Yasujiro Ozu. The film's title is an obvious play off the duel between the two sides of Kyoji- his lustful selfish side, and his noble, selfless one, although, in watching the film, the title could equally apply to the film's most compelling character, Minegishi, one of the more interesting female characters in the Kurosawa canon (Sengoku's performance is actually the best in the film). She too battles her immaturity and selfish impulses to become a better person. By film's end, it is apparent that her better side has won. So, too, has the better side of Kyoji. The Quiet Duel is an interesting film with good moments, from a great artist. It's not the sort of film that will stay with you for a long time, but it one that you should spend a brief time with.
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on June 10, 2007
If you are a fan of Toshiro Mifune, you will appreciate the dynamic performance he delivers in this film which was made early in his career. The supporting cast also delivers fine performances, particularly that of the tough-talking nurse who changes and evolves as the story unfolds. I found the movie to be starkly realistic and extremely believable, especially if you mentally substitute AIDS for syphllis.
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on October 26, 2009
Modern themes and the clear presentation of moral complexity make this film a classic.

Kurosawa's screenplay derives from a play by Kazuo Kikuta.
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on February 21, 2015
Anything by Akira Kurosawa
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