Quick-Thoughts: Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard (1965)

Akira Kurosawa Binge Part VIII of IX

A soldier arrives at a new war platoon full of strangers and begins to change as a character.

An inspiring woman arrives at a dance school full of strangers and begins to change as a character.

A patient is sent to a mental hospital full of strangers and begins to change as a character. 

Do these synopses seem vaguely familiar? 

The Kurosawa drama Red Beard uses this classical structure—that now seems to be so frequently used in horror movies not so shortly after—in which closely pronounces the alterations of a once different human being, this time, surrounding a physician intern who is sent to an “eventful” hospital. It’s like a silver-plated Grey’s Anatomy for arthouse snobs. 

This is possibly the most insightful, political, and mental cinematic examination I’ve ever seen on the medical world of humanity. It’s just one of those movies that isn’t afraid to continuously beat you over the head, scene by scene, with tremendously traumatizing real-life issues. For a film made in 1968, Red Beard is startlingly relevant to these modern times and a poetic masterpiece in psychology, as well. 

I suppose the dilemma in Red Beard, however, can be argued that it’s almost a metaphorical orgy of terror that’s meshed together simultaneously into a cycle of impulsive, convenient events for our initially spoiled main character to endure. Then again, this movie does take place at a sketchy, overpopulated public hospital, so I surmise that anything can happen, no matter the rowdiness. I’ll gladly give the spectacular film a pass for this, nonetheless; it’s no biggie. 

Also, Akira Kurosawa directed the hell out of this movie, as always, but almost as much so as his greatest motion picture, High and Low. Goes to show that even gods can continue to advance their craft. 

Verdict: A-

Akira Kurosawa Ranked

“Red Beard” is now available to stream on Kanopy and The Criterion Channel.

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