Director Akira Kurosawa’s first police thriller follows a young cop and his older, wiser partner as they track down a thief who stole the rookie’s gun to use for a murder. The underbelly of Tokyo is a sweaty, seedy world of barely repressed violence.
Chosen for My Noir by
Ivy Ho, director of Crossing Hennessy and Claustrophobia:
“The first Kurosawa film I watched, unfortunately, was Dodes’ Ka-den (1970). Its over-the-top sentimentality bored me. I left the cinema wondering why people considered him such a big shot. Then I watched my first Ozu film (Tokyo Story, most likely) and fell head over heels; I sided with all the Ozu fans in the world that Ozu was the greatest Japanese director ever. It was Kagemusha a decade later that changed my opinion about Kurosawa; an exciting epic and a simple, touching story all in one.
But it was the vintage Stray Dog that really opened my eyes, yet another decade later and this time on DVD, to Kurosawa’s immense capability and artistry as a filmmaker. Like Ozu, he likes to portray the ordinary man. Unlike Ozu, he creates characters that ring universally true. Nothing else in film has etched a deeper impression on my mind than the shot of its mysterious perpetrator descending the stairs, and – on hearing the arrival of the police – quietly back-tracking and disappearing from frame. My way of finding the true greatness of Kurosawa was not as neat, but I’m glad I back-tracked.”