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This is a screenshot of the panting dog that opens Akira Kurosawa’s 1949 film, Stray Dog [Nora inu 野良犬].

Commentary from Stephen Prince, author of The Warrior’s Camera: the Cinema of Akira Kurosawa on the opening sequence:

Stray Dog was made during the Allied occupation of Japan, and in fact, Kurosawa got into some trouble with Americans over this title sequence. An American with the SPCA looked at this panting dog and concluded that because Kurosawa was Japanese, and the Japanese were barbarians, he must have injected the dog with rabies. Apparently she had never seen a dog pant before. She brought legal action against Kurosawa, and he had to reply in a deposition that a crew member had merely exercised a dog on a bike, at which point they all photographed it at rest. Kurosawa was extremely upset by all of this, and he remarked that this was the only occasion on which he felt sorry that Japan had lost the war. (DVD commentary track, Criterion Collection)

At any rate, the story isn’t about Japanese street dogs at all, not in the literal sense anyway. It’s about a rookie cop who loses his gun, and ends up traversing the seedy underbelly of postwar Japan, learning more than he cares to absorb in his efforts to track it down.

No dogs appear aside from the one depicted in the title sequence.

The film does star Toshiro Mifune. He’s enough to sustain my attention.

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