I mentioned on my post about Babette’s Feast that I wasn’t inherently that excited about seeing it, though I ended up very glad I had. I was very excited about Stray Dog, and I wasn’t let down a bit. I typically have some trouble connecting with Japanese film, even Kurosawa, who’s generally considered to be among the most Western-accessible Japanese filmmakers. Though someday I’m going to have to stop saying that, as I’m getting more and more acclimated to Japanese filmmaking – the real test will be Tokyo Story, which is coming up later in the challenge.
Anyway, I was hoping Stray Dog would work well for me because it’s basically a noir, and noir is one of my favorite genres. And now I totally understand the thing about Kurosawa being more influenced by Western film than many other Japanese directors. It shows through much more clearly in this modern day detective drama than it does in, say, his samurai films, right down to the chorus girls that would fit in any 1940s American nightclub. Yet it still shares stylistic and thematic concerns found in other Kurosawa films, especially High and Low, also a modern-day crime film that I enjoyed quite a bit.
In Stray Dog, Toshiro Mifune is rookie policeman Murakami who gets his gun pickpocketed on the bus. Desperate to get it back, he infiltrates the underworld and gets some leads, but soon finds that it was used in a robbery and homicide. Wracked with guilt, he and veteran cop Sato (Takashi Shimura) team up to find the suspect. The detective work itself is a lot of fun to watch, but the whole thing has a depth due to Murakami’s guilt first over just losing his gun, then having it be used to kill.