Sog.: dal romanzo Tomishima Matsugoro den (1939) di Shunsaku Iwashita. Scen.: Mansaku Itami. F.: Kazuo Miyagawa. M.: Shigeo Nishida. Mus.: Goro Nishi. Int. Tsumasaburo Bando (Matsugoro, detto ‘Matsu’), Yasushi Nagata (capitano Kotaro Yoshioka), Keiko Sonoi (la moglie di Yoshioka), Kamon Kawamura (Toshio), Hiroyuki Nagato (Toshio bambino), Ryûnosuke Tsukigata, Kyôji Sugi. Prod.: Daiei Film. DCP. Bn.
A film portrait: the flashbacks and present-day sequences, located on the same plane, reveal the different aspects of the character of Matsugoro, The Rebel, an almost legendary figure for the Japanese lower classes. Matsugoro embodies, in his modest condition, some eternal features of the national character: oversensitive pride, courage, devotion, adherence to tradition, respect for the moral code of the time, to the point of sacrifice. Beyond its few experiments (such as the linking sequences and the unfolding of time marked by the visual leitmotif of the ever-spinning rickshaw wheel), the film’s worth is in its spontaneity, its freshness, its bonhomie. In its modesty too, as it understates any character’s dismay, even despair.
Fifteen years later, Inagaki would shoot an extremely faithful remake of his own film, but in Cinemascope an colour: a more explanatory, more diluted, more outdated work, less touching and less convincing. It was the cuts made by the very strict censorship of the time, Max Tessier recalls (in Images du cinéma japonais, Veyrier, 1981) that pushed Inagaki to undertake the remake. However, everything had been said in the original, allusive and endearing in its form. In the 1958 version, Toshiro Mifune’s overly plodding and overly picturesque interpretation prevents the figure of Matsugoro from ‘coming across’ as well as in the first version. A third adaptation of Iwashita’s novel was made in 1965 by Kenji Misumi.
Jacques Lourcelles, Dictionnaire du cinéma: les films, Laffont, Paris 1992