Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Quiet Duel (1949)


When Dr. Fujisaki (Toshiro Mifune) accidentally cuts his finger during a routine surgery in World War 2 he is shocked to find out he has contracted syphilis. Returning to his father's practice, he leaves behind his fiancee, and self-medicates, distancing himself from those he loves the most.

Not one of Kurosawa's better known films, The Quiet Duel is perhaps one of Kurosawa's most flawed, and at the same time most polarizing film. Despite a 95minute runtime The Quiet Duel is a slow, character analyzing film that takes its time in understanding the deep inner struggle of Fujisaki. Kurosawa captures this in lonely walks, non-descript conversations, and personal exile. It's a painstaking view, which is unfortunately not aided by its incredibly slow pacing. Very repetitive, very careful, Quiet Duel really fails to be as gripping as it aught to be, and I hate to say it's the first Kurosawa film I ever saw that I couldn't wholeheartedly recommend.

Even still, the performances are top notch. Mifune simply lights up the screen, and once again Shimura is there to carry the father figure torch. Even the supporting cast of Miki Sanjo, Kenijiro Uemura, & Chieko Nakakito deliver such grand and powerful performances. It's quite obvious throughout this is Kurosawa's humanistic attempt. It's just a shame they have so little to work on until the film's latter half. It's in that final 30 minutes that the plot begins to move, characters begin to unveil themselves, and the real message of the film is revealed. The waiting is just what will kill you.

Though if you're a Kurosawa fanatic like me there's still much to love about Quiet Duel. Its shot composition, especially several of longer sequences, are absolutely brilliant. As well that impact of that finale may just be enough to bring you into its side of the ring. Still only those who enjoy their films slow and careful-like will really be able to make it through the first hour. The constant pausing, pacing, and waiting, felt like I was watching something else entirely. I kept waiting for something to happened, and when it finally did I felt as if I was saved. It's got lots of great moments they just don't pull together well enough. Torn between the good and bad, it's not a Kurosawa film I can blindly recommend, regardless of my love.

Despite some great shots, and an emotionally gripping finale, Kurosawa's The Quiet Duel is a general misstep, far too slow for its own good, or anyone else's for that matter.

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