Red Beard (Akahige)
In Wheeler Auditorium
Red Beard remains Kurosawa's last large-scale production realised in his native Japan. During his 1978 visit to the Pacific Film Archive, the great Japanese master noted that most of his classic films were commercial flops, and that this fact, combined with the skyrocketing costs of all aspects of producing a historical period film, has made it impossible for him to find backing in Japan for many cherished projects, including his adaptation of King Lear for Toshiro Mifune which has existed in screenplay form for several years. Set in the early 19th century, Red Beard stars Toshiro Mifune as a physician in charge of an impoverished clinic, who believes it his duty to fight poverty as well as disease. According to Georges Sadoul, “Kurosawa himself has called this a ‘monument to goodness in man.' This remarkable ‘Education Sentimentale,' Dostoevskian in overtones, has been much criticized for its proposition that good begets good. Kurosawa challenges the viewer to react cynically and then shows that the cynicism is meaningless. Kurosawa's style is simple, yet every scene is full of revealing details and images of extraordinary beauty. Mifune gives a superb performance in an extremely difficult role.” Needless to say, Red Beard did not make its costs back at the box office, and was perhaps the final nail in Kurosawa's coffin as far as the commercial film industry in Japan is concerned.