Stray Dog (1949)
Theft, murder, lies and money
11 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Stray Dog (1949)

Theft, murder, lies and money. The pursuit of a single gun creates a compelling story that is pushed further by human behavior and weather.

The plot has Murakami searching for a gun he lost in the city of Tokyo. The shooting locations look very everyday, but never on the Tokyo skyline. The back alley, the restaurant, the hair salon, the train station, they all have a familiar feel to them. These locations aren't just there, there are several things happening there as well. There's people shopping downtown, there's people getting their hair cut, there's people at the baseball game, all of these people everywhere give the impression that the city is indeed full of people and adds to the mood and atmosphere of the movie. It is very evident that everyone who has a line in the movie has a story: the hotel worker is suffering because of the heat, the police units are tackling several other cases, and several other characters give hints about their own lives and how they are dealing with problems, which all brings life into the film. The atmosphere of a busy market place where Murakami goes undercover to look for his missing gun adds to the frustration of the scene. A sea of thousands of faces blur together and drags along. On first glance the scene feels too long and the audience gets the point after a minute, but by doing this the focus turns from the plot to the character of Murakami as the viewer sees how badly he wants his gun back.

The gun becomes a MacGuffin plot device, the drive for Murakami is to get his gun back before it can harm anyone else. When he finally does confront the killer and forces the gun away, it is no longer mentioned.

The overwhelming heat in the movie takes it's toll on the two detectives and other characters. Exhaustion begins to take over as the characters loose sleep, get frustrated and are overloaded with work. Sato sees that his young partner is going through the stages of exhaustion and tries to get Murakami on the right track and brings up the film's key symbolism, a rabid stray dog (even though rabies are extremely rare in Japan). The exhaustion factor makes Murakami grumpy, quick to anger and narrow visioned. At times he can only focus on getting his stolen gun back at any cost, getting person X and not noticing his surroundings, and blindly heading after people. Sota is often the voice of reason, but the heat gets to him too.

One thing that black and white films can't do as well as color is show the temperature effects. For an example, in Stray Dog, the effect of heat is barely felt since it's hard to ditinquish heat waves and the color differentaces in skin tones that show how moist skin is and how sun burnt it is.

The heat isn't the only weather device used in the movie, the big rainfall brings change in the movie. Harumi Namiki, who is the murder's girlfriend changes her mind after the rain fall and decides to help the detectives. The rain also signifies sadness and brings a dramatic effect to Sato being shot. After the rain comes a warm summer day where the murder is caught while birds are chripping, flowers are growing and things feel more lively then when the heat wave was in effect.
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