By Melvin Cartagena
Stray Dog – 1949 – Akira Kurosawa
The parallels between Kurosawa and Scorsese, and more specifically between their leading men, Toshiro Mifune and Robert DeNiro, are so close that the worn accusation of Kurosawa being ‘too Western’ by conservative Japanese film scholars becomes a somewhat fair one. Regardless, Kurosawa crafted majestic dramas with universal themes, experienced at a human scale, but seen against a larger backdrop that both played against and complimented the subjects of his signature films, his leading men. In the same way that Scorsese showed us how the fading Little Italy of his youth produced men like Charlie and Johnny Boy in Mean Streets (1973), in Stray Dog (1949) Kurosawa presents a multi-leveled action drama that plays itself out in the ruins of post-war Japan, the backdrop that spawned men like Murakami (Mifune) and Yusa (Isao Kimura), his nemesis and mirror image.