Monday, 5 January 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1965: Toshiro Mifune in Red Beard

Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Kyojō Niide also known as the titular Red Beard.

Red Beard is a technically low key epic by Akira Kurosawa about an arrogant young doctor Dr. Noboru Yasumoto (Yūzō Kayama) who learns there is more to life than status through a series of interactions with patients from the rural clinic for the very poor. I kinda love the film but I can't help but feel it may have benefited from a stronger lead performance. Kayama is at least adequate but he's a little underwhelming in portraying the transformation of his character, I think someone like Tsutomu Yamazaki (who's in the film anyways and great I might add) could have brought more to the character.

Sadly Red Beard must be noted as the final collaboration between Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune ending the greatest actor/director relationship of all time. It sounds as though their relationship had become strained over time to begin with and unfortunately the production of Red Beard did nothing to alleviate this. Apparently Mifune having to keep the titular beard throughout production caused him financial difficult since he was unable to take any other film work. In addition to this one of the screenwriters, Hideo Oguni, apparently criticized Mifune's performance in the film leading Kurosawa to doubt Mifune's abilities for the first time. So ended their collaborative effort which was unfortunate for both men. Mifune although certainly was still a successful actor none of his later films are as remembered as his work with Kurosawa. Kurosawa perhaps suffered even worse since he no longer had the guaranteed star power of Mifune, and was unable to find funding for his ambitious projects leading Kurosawa's output to diminish substantially. This perhaps unfortunately contributed to Kurosawa's suicide attempt in 1971.

It was a true loss to cinema that the two could never professionally reconcile, they did not even personally until late in both of their lives. One could imagine one project in particular which probably would have been Kurosawa's version of Runaway Train. Imagine that film made by Kurosawa instead especially since the leading character from that film seemed to be tailored made for Mifune. Some have claimed that this is not the case for the part of Red Beard and they see Kurosawa's other frequent collaborator Takashi Shimura as a better fit for the role. Shimura is very briefly in the film, but his days of having a substantial role in Kurosawa films dried up for some reason. I'm sure Shimura would have been good in the role, although there is one scene where he would have been considerably less believable, but likely would have been similar to his performances in Stray Dog and Seven Samurai. Mifune playing the mentor for once offers an interesting challenge for the actor, and makes Red Beard perhaps a more unusual character than he may have been otherwise.

Mifune presents a different character than you might expect from merely knowing the synopsis as the older doctor teaches the younger doctor. As you see in the first scene where Yasumoto goes to see Red Beard Mifune does not play him as the warm lovable type of mentor. Mifune naturally commands the scene, as he does every scene in which he appears in the film, and takes an effective approach as Red Beard greets the young man. Mifune actually takes a fairly cold approach in his portrayal of Red Beard's manner as he directs the man to his duty. Mifune's fairly quiet here as well, but the intensity in his performance is still very palatable. Mifune presents Red Beard as a man of his task in this scene and his brush aside of Yasumoto is basically to put him in his place in an instance. Mifune's approach to give Red Beard a sharp edge from the beginning works quite well in realizing the philosophy of his character. Mifune shows that Red Beard only forces his hand when it is an absolute necessity to do right, but when someone else can improve themselves by doing the right thing Red Beard wants them to find that out themselves.

Mifune therefore leaves Red Beard as a much more introverted mentor than you may have expected from this sort of character. Mifune though is excellent in the way he makes the character this iron willed moral conscience in his own unique way. Mifune very much stays away from sentiment for the majority of his performance instead he presents Red Beard as a man who gives his lessons sometimes through harsh truths. This is perhaps first evident in a relatively early scene after Yasumoto has had a close call with a mentally disturbed patient simply because he was interested in the woman as a sort of freak show. There is something Mifune is able to do that is pivotal for the character of Red Beard.  That is being both so incisive in his blunt morality yet never for a moment seeming like he is trying to hammer it into the characters. Mifune makes often the silence more powerful than what is said by Red Beard simply through the way he carries the character. One scene where Yasumoto keeps explaining away why he went to brothel once, despite not being asked by Red Beard, is made absolutely convincing because of Mifune's performance.

Mifune's style works incredibly well for the character, and there is something special to be found in almost every second he is onscreen here. I especially love one scene where Red Beard is given a confession by a woman who is guilt stricken over having attempted stabbing her family member. Mifune has this way of personifying compassion in his portrayal of Red Beard's reaction as he hears the story. Mifune's warmth that does come from his performance is not in an at all of an upfront and straightforward fashion. It's fascinating though how Mifune still exudes it in quite a powerful way without every seeming to show exactly. Mifune almost makes it as though Red Beard is compassion so in a way he is love without needing to say it. There is such a subtle poignancy that Mifune brings through the part that actually does a great service to the film. Mifune's approach, while keeping the film quite moving to be sure, is able to prevent it from keeping it schmaltzy because of the way he so strongly earns the emotions in his own work as Red Beard.

Now just to note the scene where Mifune definitely would have more believable than Shimura in. The scene is when Red Beard retrieves a sick girl from the abusive madame of a brothel. Red Beard to do so has to take down a group of thugs in bad ass Mifune style. Well actually, although his physicality is much needed, Mifune does not play the scene as the samurai from Yojimbo taking over for a moment for Red Beard. Mifune even adjusts his performance somewhat playing the scene still as a surgeon as he has no pleasure or hate as he basically puts down each man as simply as he which is completely fitting to the character of Red Beard. This is yet another great performance by Toshiro Mifune, and what I love the most about his work is the unorthodox approach he takes with the character. This is his perhaps the most understated of all the performances, as even High and Low and The Quiet Duel had their well earned breakdowns. Mifune's portrayal of Red Beard is essential to the  success of the film as he realizes the philosophy and technique of his character so beautifully. Although it is still unfortunate that this had to be the last time Mifune gave a performance in a film directed Akira Kurosawa, but at least they ended on a high note together.

43 comments:

luke higham said...

10 5s for Mifune. Holy shit
Best Supporting Year ever, by the look of it.
Steiger should win, since your penultimate reviews for lineups tend to be the winner.

luke higham said...

Louis: Rating & Thoughts for Yamazaki.

luke higham said...

Louis: And your ratings & thoughts on James Stewart in Shenandoah and Laurence Olivier in Bunny Lake is Missing.

Anonymous said...

What are your Top 5s for Best Actress Leading and Supporting for 1965? Ratings and thoughts included if you don't mind.

JackiBoyz said...

Louis what are the remaining Kurosawa films you need to see and are you interested in the others that are left?

luke higham said...

Jackiboyz: I know that he's seen Sanjuro already and I'm sure he's very much looking forward to seeing Ran.

Michael McCarthy said...

Louis, how would you rank Mifune's 10 five-star performances?

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, what's your rating and thoughts for Bruce Davison in X-Men?

luke higham said...

Louis: For you, would you consider 10 five star performances from one actor, a holy grail.

RatedRStar said...

Dodes'ka-den and Dersu Uzala would be very bold films to see Louis, during Akiras depression filled days, I mean was Dodes really that bad, it might be worth a look.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I just saw Wild today and absolutely hated it.

Michael McCarthy said...

Dodes'ka-den was just really unfocused but it was still interesting. Dreams is a wonderful film but I can't think of any performances specifically worth mentioning...The notable Kurosawa performances I can think of that Louis hasn't seen are:

Tatsuya Nakadai in Ran (outstanding and often poignant portrayal of sheer madness)
Toshiro Mifune in The Lower Depths (his lesser work from 1957 but it's still a solid turn as one of his most unlikable characters)
Tatsuo Matsumura in Madadayo (does quite well in portraying the warmth and charm of the old man, which makes his inevitable physical decline quite moving)
Isao Numasaki in One Wonderful Sunday (I'm kicking myself for forgetting to suggest him for 1946, anyway this is an incredibly charming and heartfelt performance that reminds me of Jimmy Stewart's style of acting. I should also add that this is easily my favorite film Kurosawa made before he started collaborating with Mifune.)
Susumu Fujita in No regrets for Our Youth (Definitely Fujita's best performance, he does well to portray a cold conviction in his beliefs that kind of reminds me of Tom Courtenay's work in Doctor Zhivago)
Susumu Fujita in Sanshiro Sugata Part II (This is a more effective film than part one mostly because of Fujita's much more reserved and assured performance. He creates the experienced Sugata as a humble, quietly proud figure who one can more easily root for.)

luke higham said...

KoooK160: Your thoughts on Wild & Witherspoon's performance with the rating as well.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Luke: Well, the next one to dismiss Boyhood as nothing but faux-philosophical nonsense will have me shoving a projector reel of this movie down their throat. Holy shit, what garbage. Jean-Marc Vallee's direction here seems inconsistent and dramatically inert. Worse is the editing choices that make the flashbacks seem out of place and distracting instead of the money scene that they were supposed to be. Nick Hornby's script was basically fortune cookie wisdom at its worst. The acting was okay, but no one was really that impressive.

Witherspoon - 3: She has one or two good moments, but she's undercut by her annoyingly self-pitying character and her usual mopey acting.

luke higham said...

Well, I'm surely going to cross Wild out of my To Watch list, I've no intention of seeing Cake either.

Boyhood, as an experiment was good, but as a film it just didn't work as well as it should've done for me, so I wouldn't call it philosophical nonsense, at the end of the day, it is, what it is.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Well I guess this ensures I'll be rooting for Pike, Moore and Jones for the Oscar.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: Yamazaki - 4.5(It's a shame he also did not work more often with Kurosawa since they were also great together. Also imagine Runaway Train with Yamazaki in Eric Roberts's role (and maybe Tatsuya Nakadai as the warden) and everything seems to come together. Anyway Yamazaki's role is brief but he basically gets his own short film which is kinda like a less ghostly Ugetsu, just as haunting though. Yamazaki, although still playing a poor man but this time one everyone loves rather than a kidnapper, is quite heartbreaking in depicting the dying state of the man who we watch literally gasp his last breaths. We get a call back to his doomed romance with a woman though that motivated his goodness, and Yamazaki is very affecting in his portrait of a simple man facing utter emotional devastation)

Stewart - 4.5(I actually had seen this film long ago, but I just must have looked over it when I was making the original ranking. Anyway, as I recall as I have not re-watched it since, Stewart does do some great work here as usual as a father passionate about keeping his family out of the civil war. The scene I still remember quite clearly is the powerful one where Stewart confronts the young man who nonsensically shot his right as they were riding home. It's a great scene for Stewart brings the searing hatred toward the man, but with the even stronger sadness for his terrible loss)

Olivier - 4(The less insane work from 65 and I would say the better work. Bunny Lake is Missing as I film should be taken exactly how you don't do a twist, since I thought it was quite compelling up to that point. Luckily for Olivier he does not really associate with that side of the film. Olivier gives a pretty understated performance just as a inspector trying to piece together the bizarre case in front of him. Olivier is effective in conveying the distance yet confusion the inspector keeps as he tries to find out the truth while never simply accepting a lie)

In regards to a Holy Grail, sure that sounds good.

Anonymous:

Actress:

1. Elizabeth Hartman - A Patch of Blue
2. Samantha Eggar - The Collector
3. Julie Christie - Doctor Zhivago
4. Julie Andrews - The Sound of Music
5. Carol Lynley - Bunny Lake is Missing

Supporting Actress:

1. Simone Signoret - Ship of Fools
2. Shelley Winters - A Patch of Blue
3. Claire Bloom - The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
4. Kyoko Kagawa - Red Beard
5. Geraldine Chaplin - Doctor Zhivago

Jackiboyz:

Ran of course as well The Most Beautiful, Sanshiro Sugata Part II, No Regrets For Our Youth, Those Who Make Tomorrow, One Wonderful Sunday, and his 70's and 90's output. I have to say I wish to watch all of them since my least favorite Kurosawa film, Sanshiro Sugata, I still thought was decent, but I'm looking forward to Ran the most.

Matt:

Davison - 3(Although I have many problems with the first X-Men film Davison does a fine job. He does the whole politician grandstanding fairly well, and than is fairly effective in depicting Kelly's fear when he realizes what Magneto has done to him. Really a thankless role, since he's there just to fulfill a plot point more than anything, but I'll give Davison credit for giving it a go)

Michael McCarthy:

1. Rashomon
2. Yojimbo
3. High and Low
4. Throne of Blood
5. Red Beard
6. Samurai Rebellion
7. Seven Samurai
8. The Quiet Duel
9. Drunken Angel
10. Stray Dog

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

See anymore 2014 movies, Louis?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Hartman and Potter were brilliant in A Patch of Blue. That is all. Is Hartman a 4.5 or 5 Louis?

Michael McCarthy said...

Hartman's gotta be a five, since I know Eggar is.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Ratings & Thoughts on Heston & Harrison in The Agony and The Ecstasy.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

The Drop
Love is Strange

Luke:

Heston & Harrison - 3(Heston is the far more consistent of the two doing his epic leading man routine, while Harrison does ham it up a bit. Harrison though does have a few really good moments in there almost all of them involving his scenes with Heston. When the two stop simply to talk about the fresco the film comes to life and Harrison actually reigns himself to give an effective performance)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Ratings and thoughts on the casts of both movies?

luke higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on the films, plus ratings & thoughts on the casts for each film.

Louis Morgan said...

My thoughts will be briefer than I would like as I finished them once and it was deleted just before I was about to post them.

Love is Strange - (An unacknowledged remake of Make Way For Tomorrow. It's does not hold a candle to that film. It's one of those films that I did not mind watching, but I also never thought it became anything special. It also seems a tad thin in its ending which seems to rush the main plot as well its only subplot that tries to go anywhere)

Lithgow and Molina - 3.5(Both are likable enough in their scenes together, and its easy enough to care about their plight. Neither gets to develop that much of a character really, but they both do well with what they have)

Tahan - 2(We don't need any more Jesse Eisenbergs first of all. Secondly he never was very believable in his one note portrayal of angst, and his ending scenes do not work in the least)

The rest of the cast is all very forgettable.

The Drop - (I thought it was rather effective low key thriller. I liked how it built up its tension while establishing its little crime world fairly well)

I'll save Gandolfini.

Hardy - 4.5(I thought he was great in making a sympathetic enough "hero" while leaving something off about Bob the whole time. Hardy leaves it the proper mystery so you might think he's just stupid, but when the truth is revealed it makes absolute sense)

Rapace - 3.5(I liked her tension filled chemistry with Hardy and I thought she did a good job of developing a character with really not a whole lot of material)

Schoenaerts - 4(You really have to give this guy props for his accent as you would never have guessed he wasn't American. Schoenaerts makes for an intriguing villain as he carries a menace simply by being so believably off that the fear is simply that you have no idea what he will do. He's also just fantastic in his final scene as he so effectively goes from attempted to tough guy to a whimpering victim)

luke higham said...

I'm glad you liked Hardy and on reflection I moved Schoenaerts to a 4, as well as moving Gandolfini to a 4.5 since I felt, I didn't praise him as much as I should've done.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I actually preferred Schoenaerts to Gandolfini.

luke higham said...

Louis: Since you gave Tom Hardy a 4.5, I'm now, really intrigued on what rating you'll give to Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Are there any performances you were saving you've decided to relent on? If so, which ones?

Anonymous said...

Schoenaerts is a very good actor in my opinion. Anyway I've just seen The Imitation Game, and I thought it was really great.
Cumberbatch - 5
Knightley - 4.5
Goode - 4
Strong - 3.5
Dance - 3
Kinnear - 3
Leech - 3.5

luke higham said...

KoooK160:
It'll probably be
Shia Labeouf in Fury
Christoph Waltz in The Zero Theorem
David Thewlis in The Zero Theorem
Serkis & Kebbell in Dawn of The Planet of The Apes
Bill Nighy in Pride
Ben Affleck in Gone Girl
Tyler Perry in Gone Girl

He'll review ten in Lead (although he may have to do a couple more, in case there were more five star performances than he thought, there would be) & five in supporting plus the bonus review for Sutherland.
I fucking hope he reviews McConaughey in Interstellar, Spall in Mr Turner and Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Also, Guy Pearce should be a guarantee for The Rover.

Louis: If there are any performances you've decided to relent on reviewing, can I have your ratings & thoughts on them.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Oh no no no NO, he better damn well save Kebbell.

luke higham said...

Paddington Ratings
Whishaw: 4
Bonneville: 4
Hawkins: 4
Kidman: 4
Capaldi: 3

luke higham said...

KoooK160: I want a review for Kebbell too, but the ship seems to have sailed already on that one.

Michael McCarthy said...

I really wanna see reviews for Serkis and Kebbell. I feel like a lot of people agree with me on Kebbell, but I'd also give Serkis a 5, and I didn't even give fives to Cumberbatch, McConaughey, or Hoffman.

luke higham said...

Michael McCarthy: Unless Serkis is requested, I can't see it, purely because it's a Motion Captured Performance and if he had given Serkis a 5 for The Two Towers, then there would've been a higher possibility for it.

luke higham said...

KoooK160 & Michael McCarthy: If you want reviews for Serkis & Kebbell, here's my advice
If either one of you gets a request, then request Kebbell in Supporting, but if you want Serkis, then rather than request a performance, request/suggest a extension of the Lead Lineup from 10 to 15, just so everyone's satisfied.

luke higham said...

KoooK160 & Michael McCarthy: Otherwise, I'll be going on a huge rant if Louis doesn't review all of his 5s for the year.

Michael McCarthy said...

I think 15 alternate reviews would be overkill, I won't request any performances from this year. I only want Louis to review Serkis if he deems him worthy, I just personally think he's very worthy.

luke higham said...

Michael McCarthy: That's fine, because I personally just want all the 5s reviewed and don't want any other requests from anyone unless it has a possibility of a 5.

luke higham said...

In Supporting, I personally want reviews for Armitage, Kebbell and Poulter, plus my request for Fassbender, I'm starting to really regret requesting Mikkelson before the '06 supporting lineup was posted, because of his high placement.

Louis Morgan said...

There are a few I know I won't review already, but I'll keep them a secret at the moment.

Matt Mustin said...

I hope Guy Pearce is a guarantee, because he was flawless in The Rover.