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My fifth Kurosawa movie – Drunken Angel


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    Hey Folks,

    The beginning student here.

    I just finished watching my fifth Kurwsawa movie – Drunken Angel.

    After watching it, I went to the online film forum here, and went into the archives and read(ish) y’alls discussion of the film.

    It generated both some thoughts and some questions:

    Y’all talked about the scene where Matsunaga accosts the young kid in the street and says something to him

    [This came right after the Jungle Music, then the wipe to the Doctor’s office, the little set-to there and then Matsunaga storming out. Right?]

    Vili says the subtitle is:

    “Hey, better cool it! Jerk!”

    In my movie that I watched the subtitle was:

    “Don’t lecture me. Damn you.”

    Which at first, I thought was sorta stupid.

    But if that were, in fact, what he said, it could fairly neatly be seen as an example of “displacement behavior”, as seen everywhere, from lower animals up through humans.

    That’s exactly what he WANTED to say to Sanada, but couldn’t.

    So he screams it at the first “safe” target.

    But aside from this specific question about differing subtitles, what’s the deal on versions of Kurosawa films?

    What version was this I watched (on TCM)?

    As opposed to what y’all have?

    What’s the best?

    If I finish watching all of these from TCM and find that I can’t shake this director, and want to buy some of his films to have/keep/rewatch, is there a simple answer to “what version to get”?

    Or does it vary from movie to movie?

    And then… there was this other thought I thought…about the change of seasons.

    Here’s the succession of scenes as best as I can quickly characterize them:

    – Jungle music night club scene (which was ridiculously wonderful!)

    – wipe to Sanada’s office with set-to there

    – Matsunaga storming out and accosting the kid in the street

    – shot of Sanada from behind tearing up something (paper?) and tossing it out the window

    – shot of the sump BUBBLING (hot, fetid)

    – fade OUT

    – fade back IN

    – to… a shot of the sump with a cold wind sweeping the surface of the water

    I don’t know WHY Kurosawa changes seasons.

    But this is the moment he tells us… “and now, it is winter”.

    I mean… idin’t it?

    Best regards,


    P.S. And I LOVED the dream sequence with the casket on the beach and all. Just terrific.

    And lines, as y’all discussed, like, “Human sacrifice has gone out of style. Japanese make so many pointless sacrifices.”

    Such a rich movie.

    P.P.S. And I didn’t have any problem with the ending. I mean…the girl had been in the movie throughout. A counterbalance to all the gansters that Sanada had to treat. If she weren’t going to be there at the end, she wouldn’t really have belonged in the movie at all it seems.



    In regards to the different version of the Kurosawa, it comes down to whom publishes the movie for modern distribution, and the effort that went into doing so. This can extremely important for foreign language films, and old films were original copies are badly worn, or were the originals no longer exist, and only fragments of poor copies will needed to be piece together a complete quality picture.

    TCM, uses Janus films, which is pretty much the only initial distributions in Kurosawa’s case. Janus does a great job, but their primary purpose is to secure the film, fixing the quality of the film, along with translation is not really their business. For TCM they stop here, and show just whatever Janus has done(in some cases TCM will do a translation).

    A publisher, that is highly regarded, perhaps the gold standard in older movie releases, Criterion, works closely with Janus. It is Criterion, that goes back and cleans up the damages in the films, along with providing a near perfect translation.

    Japanese doesn’t really translate properly to English, so often any attempt to do a word for word translation, leaves the English subtitles less effective, and some cases completely off the original intention. Criterion employs translators, most having decades of knowledge (in this case) in Japanese culture, along with American culture. So instead of a simply bringing a dictionary to the table, the translator, in a sense rewrites the script, to were when translated, the more exact original meaning is still intact in English. Therefore the same emotion and tone the Japanese would get, so too the English readers. This is really among the most important aspects to look for in foreign films. Some extremely poor examples are out there, and many are so bad, the film is completely impossible to understand.

    Criterion is American based, and cater to American audiences, the Europeans have a few note worthy publishers of their own, for the most part, Criterion is so much better, that the Europeans will import Criterion. I’m just not aware of anyone that puts near the effort Criterion does in restoring a old movie.

    If you really want to get into Kurosawa, while expensive, it is wise to simply stick to Criterion releases. And even among Criterion there are new and old release, the new tend to be not only better in picture quality but too renewed, more accurate translations.

    Vili, has done a great list of Kurosawa’s on DVD here:


    While Criterion are hands down better then what you watch on TCM, TCM use of Janus is still not that bad. If you avoid the eBay Chinese copies(a recent Japanese lawsuit has reduce the amount out there) you’ll be okay for the most part, the Chinese copies, are poor quality in picture, and nearly laughable in translation.

    As for me, I’m a Criterion snob, to think of any other version worthy of watching is blaspheme. 😛



    Criterion snob here, too. Welcome, jamesD and if you are this side of the pond (US) I second Jeremy’s estimation. Criterion does deluxe, careful, intelligent-and the extras cannot be beat (the commentaries and interviews are thorough, and enlightening.)



    I can only agree with the above: Criterion is usually the way to go. My Kurosawa DVD list is the long answer, as Jeremy already pointed out, although it needs an update. Plus I should start another list for HD releases!

    As for the change of seasons in Drunken Angel, I think your reading sounds very valid, JamesD!

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