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Greed, dishonesty and scandal are at the heart of this dark comedy from Academy Award winning director, Akira Kurosawa. The brilliant Toshiro Mifune (Stray Dog, Seven Samurai) portrays a sensitive young artist dragged through the mud by a pulp entertainment magazine after an innocent encounter with a pop singer. Another Kurosawa regular, Takashi Shimura (Ikiru, Rashomon) is the corrupt yet sympathetic lawyer hired to sue the opportunistic tabloid editors. This highly entertaining satire criticizes the same inhumanity Kurosawa placed on trial a year later in his international smash hit Rashomon.
Scandal could be considered the last film of Akira Kurosawa's early career, and in part a thematic rehearsal for his next film, the internationally successful Rashomon. Scandal is more generically melodramatic, but like Rashomon it deals in the nature of truth and the consequences of falsehood. It's also a personal film; Kurosawa fully intended this harsh attack on foul ethics in yellow journalism, for he had recently been romantically linked to an actress in Japanese scandal-rags. Here, the story involves a successful painter (Toshirô Mifune) and a popular singer (Yoshiko Yamaguchi) who become embroiled in public scandal after an innocent photo is published as "proof" of their secret romance. The singer feels helpless and remains passive; the painter decides to pursue a lawsuit (giving Mifune a chance to flaunt his intimidating presence).
The film switches gears--and focus--with the introduction of a rather pathetic lawyer (the great Takashi Shimura) who takes Mifune's case to court. He's a sad but well-meaning man whose devotion to his chronically ill daughter (and constant need for money) leaves him vulnerable to corruptive influence, making Scandal an engrossing study of moral ambiguity and misguided zeal. It's surprising to see how maudlin Kurosawa can be in his handling of the sickly daughter, and certainly Kurosawa is guilty of total imbalance in his rabid treatment of the press. Still, this is a splendid film, rich with detail about postwar Japan and blessed by an abundance of superb performances, most notably that of Shimura, who would later achieve greater prominence in Ikiru and Seven Samurai. --Jeff Shannon
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Fans of Mifune should enjoy this film. It is one of his better performances. Fans of Shimura will likely feel a bit disappointed in his role right out of a soap opera. Kurosawa probably had a lot of fun portraying the celebrity gossip magazine as the unethical "we're just in it for the money" collective group of villans. It's worth watching once.