I felt it was time not just in terms of reviews, but my life to finally see some Kurosawa films. We'll go chronoligically with his directed films to see how it all began and how it will end.
I didn't know what to really expect with Stray Dog, considered to be Kurosawa's first major succesful film, it sounded very simple. A young rookie cop has lost his colt handgun to a pickpocket and must track him down. Ridiculously simple plot, straight out of a detective novel but done very well. It was very different from what I expected, when I read the plot synopsis I pictured a Japanese noir film with a lot of close calls, dark atmosphere, and one hell of a climax. The movie was far from it but still very engaging and great. I have to admit the film took me for a few loops, for instance after we've followed our protagonist and seen a pretty good procedural set up which is quite interesting to see especially in 1949 before police procedural media was a dime a dozen, we follow this guy for a good near 10 minutes just wandering the streets. We have no idea who he is, why he's roaming about, or where he is going. At first, it seems kind of obvious who this guy is, but we keep following him, he looks for people but is always on the move. Again, you can guess kind of why he is looking for specific people, but it turns it completely on it's head and surprises you not once but twice. Despite me not greatly loving crime dramas that much, this movie did a good job at keeping the story interesting and entertaining. Toshiro Mifune had his first collaboration with Akira Kurosawa in this movie, a relationship that lasted the majority of Kurosawa's career as a filmmaker, and this is a good bar he set for his performance. They constantly refer the pickpocket to a mad dog, but I feel Mifune is the eponymous stray dog, not as experienced as his older partner played by Takashi Shimura and often feverishly distraught and highly punishing of himself for losing his gun. He looks at this particular case as the end all be all of his career as a police officer, not focusing on the bigger picture of serving the citizens but serving himself, just trying to correct his mistake and is faced with heavy consequences that he constantly berates himself for, even though some of it is not his fault. A stray dog roaming the streets in search of his own personal gain. I love that, and Kurosawa's directing style though not at his height of technique as later on is still great. His cuts are still based around motion, and despite it being black and white the film has depth and good contrast, he knows when to crank up the pressure and energy but also takes lots of time building to it. I would say this is the place to start with both Kurosawa and Mifune, it's a humble beginning to an incredible duo and sets the stage for future classics of film which we will be continuing tomorrow with the movie that made Kurosawa known around the world, Rashomon.