Dr. Akagi

on January 15, 1999 by Ed Scheid
   "Dr. Akagi" is the latest film from Shoei Imamura, a double Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, most recently for "The Eel" in 1997. In Japan during World War II, Dr. Akagi ("The Eel's" Akira Emoto) is a family doctor. He is known as Dr. Liver because of his deep dedication to investigating the hepatitis virus, the cause of many deaths in Japan. As he runs through the village in his white suit and straw hat, the doctor initially seems a slightly foolish character, but through Emoto's performance the doctor and his quest become compelling. The doctor is aided by a colorful group of outcasts including a drug-addicted surgeon (Masanori Sera), a former prostitute (Kumiko Aso) and an escaped Dutch POW (Jacques Gamblin).
   Outside of an extremely stilted opening in which American pilots discuss bombing raids and an overdone finale involving a whale, Imamura's straightforward directorial style effectively tells the doctor's story and the consequences when his unusual quest turns into an obsession.    Starring Akira Emoto, Kumiko Aso and Jacques Gamblin. Directed by Shoei Imamura. Written by Shoei Imamura and Daisuke Tengan. Produced by Hisa Ino and Koji Matsuda. A Kino release. Drama. Japanese-language; subtitled. Not rated. Running time: 128 min.
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