Posted at 5:59 PM on February 13, 2006
by Euan Kerr
When time permits, I've indulged in a little Toshiro Mifune/Akira Kurosawa worship recently.
I'd never seen "Rashomon" (1950) and was just blown away by it's deceptive simplicity. Kurosawa explores the concept of truth by depicting a number of very different accounts of a murder. Mifune plays a crazed bandit to the hilt, cackling murderously in a way which runs counter to the suave characters he plays in other films. It's a delight to watch.
A few days later I took in "Sanjuro," (1962) a slightly comic tale where Mifune plays a renegade samurai who decides to help a group of young men fight a corrupt local official apparently because he feels embarrassed by the youngsters less-than-proficient attempts to get the job done themselves. He sometimes indicates he's doing it just so he will be able to get some peace and quiet in the long run.
Kurosawa knows playing for laughs can work in so many ways. It's a great schtick, and makes the seriousness of the actual confrontations, and especially the final showdown, all the more intense.
I'm just about ready to go back and watch "Rashomon" again, but "Yojimbo" beckons too. It's a samuarai tale Kurosawa apparently based on "Red Harvest," a Hammett gangster tale, which was later remade as "A Fistful of Dollars" with Clint Eastwood and then much later as "Last Man Standing" with Bruce Willis. How many plots do they say there are in the film world?
Anyone else share this Mifune/Kurosawa fetish? What's your favorite?
Sanjuro is actually the sequel to Yojimbo, as I understand it.
I've seen Ran. That's about it. Thought it was excellent, but I was also 19 when I saw it so I'm sure I didn't have a high level of understanding.
I saw "Ran," "Kagemusha," and, of course, "The Seven Samurai" when I was about that age too, but they all have to be on the list for another viewing too.
Like most folks, the first Kurosawa-Mifune film I saw was Seven Samurai.
Even though I have now seen all the Kurosawa-Mifune films (thank you Oak Street!) Seven Samurai remains my favorite. (Mifune waving the flag around is a favorite scene)
I was surprised how good the Kurosawa-Mifune films set in modern times are (e.g. Stray Dog, The Bad Sleep Well).
My favorite Kurosawa-Mifune film set in post-samurai times is "High & Low" which is always rumored to be in for a Hollywood remake, But to the best of my knowlege, nothing is in the works.
As many already know, there was a book recently published about Kurosawa & Mifune called The Emperor and The Wolf (649 pages) The best of the innumerable treatments of their work IMO is by Donald Richie, The Films of Akira Kurosawa.
Sorry if mentioning books seems a bit pedantic, but for those with the Kurosawa-Mifune "fetish," those books are much better reading than anything I could say.
Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo are my favorite Mifune movies. Sanjuro was okay and I liked the stagy-acting in Throne of Blood.
Just watched "Ikiru". It doesn't have Mifune but Kurosawa veteran Takashi Simura plays a cancer patient with only 75 days left to live. Beautiful, beautiful performance, and awesome directing- especially the use of lighting in the first half and the second half. Never seen a human suffering and redemption so beautifully shown on a movie.