Media Licentiousness – Scandal, by Akira Kurosawa (1950)

Yamaguchi, Mifune, and Shimura, in a still from Akira Kurosawa's "Scandal."

Yamaguchi, Mifune, and Shimura, in a still from Akira Kurosawa’s “Scandal.”

The subject of the film is the immorality of the press, its presumption that its putative freedom permits any reportage of any kind, irrespective of factuality but inclusive of the pursuit for profit. It is immaterial who or what is damaged.

Kurosawa emphasizes the point by making the afflicted individuals two artists, a classical singer (Shirley Yamaguchi) and a successful painter (Toshiro Mifune), who are uninvolved with one another, and their penurious lawyer (Takashi Shimura), who is bribed by the media with cash to save his young, tubercular daughter (Yoko Katsuragi).

It all ends well for those who are wronged, but the scandal remains in the public eye, reputations are tarnished, the daughter dies, and the media go on as before.

Just like today, the public more driven by hearsay than actuality. And the complementary observation, that the legal process is easily corruptible and deficient. And the encompassing commentary: that freedom needs as its basis the responsibility and accountability of individual citizens, their institutions, their organizations, and is not unrestricted liberty.

It is not a great film, nor is it pedestrian, and it makes its point, which, being easily put aside and ignored, needs to be made over and over again, and is worth watching alone to see Takashi Shimura act.

The audio in the trailer may strike one as odd. It is the voice of the classical singer who sings at Christmas for the sick girl, whom she and the painter have befriended, as the painter plays the harmonium. It is, remember though, a Christmas during the American Occupation.

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