Stray Dog (Japan 1949): Kurosawa 5-star Noir

Stray Dog (Japan 1949): Kurosawa 5-star Noir

After a rookie cop loses his gun to a pickpocket in a crowded bus on a steamy Summer day, he begins an obsessive search for the weapon.

Akira Kurosawa’s 10th film, Stray Dog(aka Nora inu), directly inspired by Jules Dassin’s The Naked City (1948), explores the nether world of post-WW2 Japan in a story that parallels the American noir theme of the returning soldier’s re-integration into civilian society. Top-line acting, innovative editing, and Kurosawa’s deft direction bring the real streets of Japan into deep focus. A western soundtrack reinforces, for a western audience, the familiarity of the urban milieu depicted on the screen, where hotel signs and night club neon are in English.

Kurosawa uses the weather brilliantly to build an atmosphere charged with frustration, and most impressively in an erotic night club scene where exhausted chorus girls slump to the floor backstage breathing heavily their skin glistening with sweat.

Stray Dog (Japan 1949)Stray Dog (Japan 1949)

Contrary to received expectations, the female protagonists are drawn deeply and sympathetically.

The ying and the yang of the oriental take on reality informs the theme: two men’s different responses to a chance event underlie the story of pursuit tempered by empathy, and the realisation that the pursuer could as easily have been the pursued.

Stray Dog (Japan 1949)

Not to be missed.

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