Here's the kick-off point of one of the all-time great cinematic partnerships - - the teaming of director Akira Kurosawa and screen icon Toshirô Mifune. In this 1948 movie, the first of the 16 they made together, Mifune compels our gaze as an arrogant young gangster, glowering and dangerous. Kurosawa's other favourite actor, Takashi Shimura, plays the alcoholic doctor the gangster's forced to consult when he contracts TB. Against a livid evocation of the cityscape of postwar Japan - - a diseased, festering society, still raw with the wounds of the war years - - is played out the fierce, resentful relationship between the two men.
With Drunken Angel, Kurosawa found his own voice for the first time: ""I was finally myself. I was doing it and no one else"." His anger at the damage inflicted on his society seethes through the film, offering no easy answers.