Troy Patterson
June 23, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Rare Kurosawa

Years before the West would discover Akira Kurosawa through such classics as Seven Samurai, the Japanese director believed that he had ”discovered” himself with his eighth film. Sure enough, Drunken Angel is a small gangster/neorealist masterpiece; it’s the tale of a tubercular yakuza (Mifune) and the alcoholic doctor (Shimura) trying to save his life. While that breakthrough film is art spun from genre material, Scandal doesn’t rise above its fundamental pulpishness. Here, a painter (Mifune) and a singer (Yoshiko Yamaguchi) — paparazzi victims — are snagged in a matrix of double crosses and sentimentalism. Lastly, the somber I Live in Fear is most notable for Mifune’s turn as a rich patriarch addled by his fear of nuclear war. Is he feeling acute sensitivity or delusional terror? The answer’s located somewhere in the star’s wild gestures and the director’s cool play with light and anxiety. On the whole, the three-disc set Rare Kurosawa is very well done. Angel: A- Scandal: B Fear: B+

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