I was scanning a movie guide when the words “Scandal” (1950) leapt out at me. The writer\director was Akira Kurosawa and the stars were Toshira Mifune and Shirley Yamaguchi. Faster than you can say “Le Video” (my favourite San Francisco shop), “Scandal” instantly became the movie I wanted to see more than any other.
The topic is the gutter press, an institution which reportedly caused Kurosawa considerable pain in real life. When the rugged artist played by Mifune meets the famous singer played by Yamaguchi, he offers her a lift to his hotel since she has missed her bus. It is their first meeting and there are three elderly eye-witnesses as the artist’s motorcycle roars past the bus on the road, tabloid photographers spot the artist and singer and decide to take a picture of the couple together for their sleazy magazine, Amour. When the couple step out on the hotel balcony later, there is a click and the picture, accompanied by a made-up article is splashed all over the cover of Amour. The two strangers, much against their will are a media sensation. A privacy lawsuit follows soon after the artist punches Amour’s publisher in the face.
“Scandal is so up-to-date it could be re-made today with hardly any changes. Alas. It would not be directed by Kurosawa or be acted by his splendidly assembled cast. Interestingly, for all their charisma, Mifune and Yamaguchi are not the true stars of “Scandal”. Those honors belong to the third-billed Yoko Katsuragi who plays a beautiful young girl dying of tuberculosis and sixth-billed Takashi Shimura (Star of “Godzilla”, “Mothra” and “Ghidra”) as the girl’s father. He offers to represent the artist and the singer as their attorney in court. The daughter is locked in a fierce struggle for her father’s soul. He is a good man, but weak, and easily corrupted by Amour’s publisher, who offers him a large check to lose the lawsuit. Shimura perfectly captures the anguish of a man who believes he’s accepting money to help his daughter, but knows he’s betraying his clients and his profession. He steals every scene he’s in, except for the ones he plays opposite Katsuragi when you can’t look at anything but her glowing face. Even the tiniest parts in “Scandal” are written and directed with such care, such detail and such raw emotion that you can’t tear your eyes away from the story, even if you wanted to. With Kurosawa as your guide, you’ll be riveted for the entire 103 minutes.
© 2006 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 11/15/06
Japan - 1950