Sunday, March 13, 2011

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (Japanese) (1958)

After his experimental ‘Rashomon’, moving ‘Ikiru’, the definite macho film of lifetime ‘The Seven Samurai’ and Bard’s brilliant screen adaptation ‘Throne of Blood’, here the wind man of Japanese cinema attempted perhaps the most light hearted adventure film of his career, purely made to entertain the audience and pacifying the cribbing Japanese critics and press who considered him too westernized. He set the plot between two Japanese enemy clans- Yamanas and Akizuki. The film opens with two buffoonery gravediggers escaped from one enemy clan and noticed a reward informing about Princess Yuki of Akizuki, the sole survivor of clan. During their wandering journey they surprisingly get gold hidden in wood. Soon they meet the legendary and valiant Akizuki Samurai General Rakurota Makabe (who else than Toshiro Mifune!) and the princess hidden in mountain castle with loads of royal gold. By tempting and offering gold to the two gravediggers, Makabe and the princess starts journey to reach their destination passing through enemy lines.

As i said, it is not moving piece of cinema like many of his earlier or later masterpieces but an entertainer with exciting adventure journey with intermittent fun, and few fine action moments including that brilliantly executed spear duel sequence between Mifune and other General. Needless to say the perfectionist director’s grand production design and captivating camera work is worth to notice in almost any of his films. Like any of his films Mifune remained the scene stealer here too but what’s quite queer to notice is the way Kurosawa had executed funny moments from two unlikely idiots sharing almost equal or more screen time than even Mifune. Since their entry as film opens, they constantly bitching when together and yet crave to be with each other when separated. They’re smart and yet stupid at times. The best of fun moment lies in that exciting drama when both of them tried to escape with gold while cheating a mute princess and ended up joining from where they left.

Many of the scenes in the film remind me Huston’s classic ‘The Treasure of Sierra Madre’ where greed for gold turned the partners themselves into enemies; however Kurosawa reflected it all in a quite light vein highlighting the fun part than the seriousness. Watch it for the queer combination of fun, adventure and drama that inspired George Lucas’s spectacular successful enterprise ‘Star Wars’.


No comments: