Painter Toshiro Mifune bumps into singer Yoshiko (later Shirley) Yamaguchi out in the hills and offers her a
friendly bike ride, only to get spotted by two spelunking paparazzi. Before you can say "rapid montage," their faces
are plastered all over town in magazine covers panting over their "passion on two wheels." Scandal erupts when
Mifune slugs the sleazy editor responsible, and corruptible lawyer Takashi Shimura jumps in to offer his services.
Coming at the end of Akira Kurosawa's pre-Rashomon grab bag, this muckraker starts off strong, with supple,
tight-tendom filmmaking -- an early long take travels from character to character inside the tabloid office, with the off-screen growling of Mifune's chopper punctuating the end of the shot and the start of their trouble. It isn't long,
however, before the film slackens into mawkish blubbering, boozers slurring "Auld Lang Syne" and a tubercular naïf moistly
eyeing wedding kimonos. Like many of Kurosawa's '40s efforts, it charts the regeneration of a downed country,
with the emphasis on j'accuse morals -- Shimura, introduced as a crowd-pleasing scrambler, is soon shaped into a slumped
self-flagellator, succumbing to corruption before a Capraesque purification at the trial. Screenplay by Kurosawa and Ryuzo
Kikushima. With Yoko Katsuragi, Noriko Sengoku, and Shinichi Himori. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce