Obscure but Timeless
Photo credits to Amazon.com
I finally got the inspiration and excuse to write about one of my favorite movies of all time, Red Beard. Dr. Em Dy of Pulse is hosting TBR-14 this week and her theme, Doc Hollywood, is thankfully a respite from some of the epistaxis-inducing topics we’ve tackled in the recent past.
To quote, “This is the call for entries. I’m inviting my fellow doctors to write from the heart, push the imagination to the max and talk about medicine and the movies or television.”
Red Beard is a film set in 19th century Japan. A cocky, pompous new medical graduate unwittingly finds himself an intern in a remote, impoverished town. To make matters worse, he has to work for a difficult clinic director, Dr. Kyojio Niide, or Akahige (Red Beard), so called because of the color of his facial hair. (We have to take their word for it – the film, produced in the 60s, is in black and white.)
Self-absorbed intern Dr. Noboru Yasumoto, ‘anak ng diyos’ and connected to people in high places cannot believe his fate and tries quite desperately to get out of there by breaking rules. Plot is simple enough. Without spoiling it for those who still wish to see it, it is about the evolution of a mentor-protege relationship and the education of a young physician.
My Mc Dreamy
The young doctor is played by Japanese actor/singer Yuzo Kayama, apparently a heartthrob in his day. He started out as a singer, much like a Japanese Elvis. His early filmography includes a Japanese musical set in Hawaii, similar to Elvis’ Blue Hawaii. I was curious to find out what has become of Mr. Kayama and I found out through the good ol’ net that he is still a successful singer and character actor in Japan. And he has aged very well, too, as he appears to still be goodlooking even now.
I swoon over his portrayal of the cocky intern – parang bad boy na guwaping ang dating. I think we all know the type. I especially like his almond eyes, the way they seem to be smiling all the time… [swoon]. The film is 40 plus years old, and yet I feel like it was only produced today. Even the characters appear to be timeless.
My fave line from the movie, when cocky intern boasts that he ‘studied Dutch medicine in Nagasaki, and my medical notes are mine’ (or something like that because he was being selfish and didn’t want to share his notes with his mentor).
Akahige’s reply, “Medical knowledge is for everyone.”
The setting of the movie, in a desolate, desperate place, probably similar to some of our poorest barrios, is enough to suck one into deep depression. The lives of the individual patients portrayed in the movie are heavy with misery and misfortune. The black and white setting does not help but portray glum and despair.
Yet, behind every story is a story of hope. It is every doctor’s dream story – ending with much hope and optimism for all. An easy message that in spite of difficulties bestowed by human nature, it is the same nature that allows us to rise from the ruins and go on with life.
About the film
I have several of Akira Kurosawa’s films on DVD, and in my opinion, this is the BEST one. I can relate to the plot, it embodies my own noble dreams as a doctor. It has such magnificent cinematography. The commentary in the DVD shows how obsessive Kurosawa was when it came to detail.
There was an earthquake scene in the movie. On his last day of filming, he took footage of the set being destroyed and he used that for the earthquake scene. We are not talking about high school auditorium sets. We’re talking highly elaborate sets.
I so love one of the final scenes where the backdrop is a snowy day. It so reminds of the day I first saw this movie (the same DVD I own) in New York City when it was also snowing outside.
It was also fun watching all the Japanese customs from that era. I watch how they move about on their knees when indoors, in rooms.
Final comment: The movie is loooooooooong – it’s 185 minutes including the 5 minute intermission. And there are subtitles to worry about, unless you know some Nihonggo. I don’t recommend any other way of watching this except by DVD. Make sure you have all that time!
This is a theme I really enjoyed tackling. It gave me license to watch Red Beard on DVD for the nth time, and laugh and cry while I drooled over one of the good-looking protagonists. If I had more time, I would’ve included my review of Spellbound where I’d swoon, this time, over Gregory Peck’s Dr. Edwards. I’ll save that for future editions of TBR.
You can read more about Red Beard on Amazon and other film review sites.