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Drunken Angel: Changing the season

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    Vili Maunula

    Around the 56:20 mark the season in Drunken Angel changes from summer heat to autumn or winter. Why does the film do this?

    The characters at least appear not to have made any progress during this time, although I would imagine that at least a few weeks are needed for the temperature to drop that sharply. In fact, for a long time I completely missed the change of the season and the apparent jump forward in time, and simply kept wondering why everyone was suddenly so dressed-up.

    I know that the film was actually shot in January, so perhaps they were hit by a cold period and had to adapt the story accordingly. But I doubt that this is the case, because it would mean that the film was shot in sequence, plus there aren’t all that many exterior scenes in the last half an hour that would force this change.

    We could also approach the change of season by considering Kurosawa’s somewhat simplistic (not necessarily in a bad way, though) metaphorical use of the weather to mark his characters’ moods and feelings. There is certainly something cold that has taken hold of Matsunaga at this point. But to (clumsily) jump forward in time simply in order to mirror Matsunaga’s suffering in the weather would seem like stretching the narrative chronology way too much, so I don’t think that this is it, either.

    Perhaps something was cut out? It would be very interesting to see the original script.

    In any case, does anyone know, or can anyone think of a possible reason why the season changes? Am I missing something here?

    On a related note, can anyone make out what Matsunaga actually shouts to the poor boy who happens on his way when he storms out of Sanada’s practice right before the seasons change. The subtitles read “Hey, better cool it! Jerk!”, which seems to fit the place perfectly, and perhaps is there exactly to prepare us mentally for the change of the season. But I’m not familiar with the Japanese expression used, so it may just be the subtitles.

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    Jon Hooper

    Sharply oberved, Vili. To be quite honest I hadn’t noticed the change at all and so thanks for pointing it out. Without going back and looking at it again, the only thing I can offer is the obvious – that Kurosawa is playing on the tradition of equating human life with the turning of the seasons. Autumn and winter meaning decay and death. Something similar can be observed in Seven Samurai, with its metaphors drawn from farming. As you say, this does not account for the abrupt jump in narrative chronology.

    I do not speak Japanese so I can’t say whether the Japanese equivalent of “cool it” used at that point contains the same metaphorical meaning.

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    Jeremy

    Yeah, great observation. I never noticed anything at all.

    I dont know how Kurosawa shot his films, nor the production time frames. Typical smart directing will make the hardest scene in the first week of filming and the easier scenes at the last part of filming. Idea is that everyone will have more energy early on, and worn out towards the end. So save the easy for the last, because you cant expect to get much out of anybody.

    Giving some of the scenes that the 56:20 mark, require intense directing and acting. I dont think it would be wise to shoot in sequence, plus that has always been a rare method.

    So perhaps it is to show a change in mood. It seems like something no one could answer, but the ones that were there.

    I don’t understand Japanese most expressions, and have no idea if there is a meaning behind those words. My Japanese is on par with a little kid(given myself too much credit there), I dont even know what he is saying to be able to write it out and maybe search a bit. —It is very interesting the chosen subtitles.

    There has be someone that is native Japanese or highly fluent in Japanese that lurks this site.

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    Vili Maunula

    I dont know how Kurosawa shot his films, nor the production time frames.

    According to Galbraith (94-95), preproduction for Drunken Angel started in November 1947, and shooting the film began later that month. Despite of Toho’s pressure to hurry up the release of the film, the shoot stretched all the way to March 10, 1948 due to several small problems that the production had to endure.

    I have no idea about what sequence the film was shot in, and although I doubt that it was shot in sequence (like Jeremy says, very few films are), given that Kurosawa’s father died on February 8th and Kurosawa in his autobiography (162-163) remarks that it was his death that inspired the Cuckoo Waltz scene, they seemed to be dealing at least with that late scene so late into the production. Or, perhaps the scene was already shot but the music still to be decided?

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