The influence of American Westerns on Akira Kurosawa’s films is often noted, especially on the Samurai pics, but who expects to find him channeling his inner Frank Capra? That’s what’s going on in this up-to-date dramedy about an idealistic landscape painter (Toshiro Mifune, in the Gary Cooper/James Stewart role) who falls for a lovely well-known singer, Shirley Yamaguchi singing snatches from MIGNON. They meet-cute in the mountains when she misses her bus and he politely offers her a lift on the back of his motorcycle. Spotted by some wiseguy reporters, an innocent, but seemingly incriminating photo makes their ‘affair’ the talk of the town. Mifune hires a has-been lawyer (Kurosawa stalwart Takashi Shimura in the Thomas Mitchell part) who’s not above taking bribes from the opposition even though his wise daughter, beatified by her tubercular suffering, can see right thru him. Add in a boozy, lost-souls sing-along of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ a trio of pixilated surprise witnesses (like the old biddies in MR. DEEDS/’36), a midnight dash thru town yelling ‘Merry Christmas, Everyone’ in English and a final thought on witnessing the birth of a new star in heaven. What? No tinkling bell, Capra-san? Kurosawa doesn’t pace like Capra, overindulging his actors, especially Shimura, but there’s a great final shot that’s worth waiting for. Still, hard to imagine that he’d follow this up with RASHOMON.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Hey, this whole Write-Up is a STotD!