Being a perfectly consistent and downright expressive man, Akira Kurosawa knew how to approach every fresh topic, no matter how controversial. He had this innate ability that allowed him to transform, with unmistakable ease, each and every one of those topics into impressive and captivating motion pictures. Scandal (Shûbun) is his darkly satirical effort to unveil the gradual deterioration of the Japanese press industry. Through a somehow unsurprising and bitterly pretentious – yet informative and intense – drama Kurosawa attempted to criticize all the immoral actions of reporters in post-war Japan. For the sake of sensationalism, the private lives of not only celebrities, but even some of the lesser-known citizens, were suddenly deemed invaluable. It seemed as though to catch the attention of the readers is to forget about a human moral code. Writing a story, which might not even be true, was totally all right, and even hurting other people’s feelings was on the agenda. Ironically so, all those wrongdoings remain unchanged up to this day in most places in the world.
Scandal proves to be a considerable visualization of a celebrity’s worst nightmare. Coincidentally, a well-known beautiful singer Miyako Saijo (Shirley Yamaguchi) meets an aspiring painter Ichiro Aoye (Toshiro Mifune) while he’s working on a new painting in the countryside. Moments later, Ichiro offers Miyako a lift on his bike, since they both stay at the same inn. Unfortunately, they are tracked down by a group of paparazzi looking for an exciting story to publish in their tabloid magazine Amour. One random picture and a cover story that insinuates an ongoing romance between the two artists change the pace of the film dramatically. In just a short period of time Ichiro and Miyako become the objects of interest of almost the whole nation (a silly exaggeration, though a efficacious one). To prove them all wrong, irritated Ichiro quickly decides to sue for damages, and in order to do so he hires a clumsy, welcoming, yet secretly perfidious lawyer Hiruta (Takashi Shimura). Though Hiruta convinces Ichiro that he shares his hatred towards the press and its shameful actions, he actually goes behind his client’s back and decides to throw the trial, in order to get some money for his sick daughter Masako (Yoko Katsuragi). What’s surprising is that even though Ichiro is aware of the position of his disloyal lawyer, he still believes that he will come to his senses and choose the right way. For the sake of sheer entertainment and for Kurosawa’s own sense of fulfillment, Hiruta goes through an enlightening transformation and – while seeking redemption – brings about the most satisfying twist in action.
Even though Mifune, with all his suave and charm, comes as the most prominent actor of the movie, it’s really worth mentioning Yoko Katsaguri’s performance. Her character, though bound to bed through the whole movie, is the brightest star of the whole showcase. With her purity, kindness, and plausible sense of judgment she is the source of all-energy and immediately becomes, even in her fragile state, the guardian angel seeking a happy ending.
In the ever-changing media reality people are only looking out for themselves, and that is, in the subtlest sense, a cause of the gradual downfall of humanity as such. People tend to care about material things in the first place; they need to suppress their urges through the misfortune of others. And press – with all its power and attention – creates this deeply superficial world, as we now know it. Scandal, the title of this picture, corresponds not only to the sensations that surround the fictitious love affair, but also to the behavior (though unnecessarily biased) of all the characters connected to the newspaper industry.