Dr. Akagi (1999) Japan
Dr. Akagi Image Cover
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Director:Shohei Imamura
Studio:Kino International
Producer:Koji Matsuda
Writer:Daisuke Tengan
Rating:4.5 (7 votes)
Date Added:2010-05-17
Aspect Ratio:1.85:1
Languages:German, Japanese
Shohei Imamura  ...  (Director)
Daisuke Tengan  ...  (Writer)
Akira Emoto  ...  
Kumiko Asô  ...  
Juro Kara  ...  
Masanori Sera  ...  
Jacques Gamblin  ...  
Shigeru Komatsubara  ...  Cinematographer
Hajime Okayasu  ...  Editor
Tags: Buddhism drama

Summary: This movie is a strange -- and very good -- drama that combines situation comedy, black humor, serious issues and, in a way, a kind of hopefulness. It takes place in a Japanese village on a small island during the period between Germany's surrender and the atom bombs fell. Militarism is always present with army officers and soldiers stationed in the village and with a near-by camp that holds prisoners-of-war.

Akagi (Akira Emoto) is a middle-aged, widowed family doctor, the only one left in town, who is always on the go getting to his patients. He is obsessed by the prevalence of liver disorders and is convinced that this is caused by hepatitis. He's called "Dr. Liver" by the townspeople because he so often diagnoses them, in addition to what else they be sick with, as having hepatitis. Among the few people who help him are a morphine-addicted surgeon, a lusty Buddhist bonze, an escaped Dutch prisoner and a young woman who gave up prostitution and now works for him as his housekeeper. His son is a military doctor in Manchuria

The movie begins as a warm-hearted study of Dr. Akagi and his determination to serve his patients and identify the cause of the hepatitis. The underlying tension of Japan's fanatic militarism is present, but the attention is on Dr. Akagi. As the movie progresses, however, a number of darker themes begins to dominate. Lack of drugs and food become evident. The fanaticism, brutality and priviledged status of the military become plot elements. Japan's medical experiments on prisoners in Manchuria is explicitly alluded to. Good people die. Dr. Akagi himself questions his worth and the point of his life. The movie's resolution lies with his renewed commitment as a family doctor, and with his dignity and self-worth back in place.

This may sound like any number of other doctor movies where the hero finds himself in a crisis, doubts himself and his work, and them finds himself again. This movie is a little different. The setting in Japan just before the country collapses at the end of WWII is unusual. The dark side of things is explicit in the last third of the movie. And although the conclusion offers a sense of personal hope, it's against a scene where the doctor and his young housekeeper, on a boat returning from a visit to a patient and where the two just might be finding a relationship, see far in the distance a cloud from one of the atom bombs.

I enjoyed the movie a lot, and if you like foreign films this might be one for you to have. The DVD picture is a little soft but not bad.