Tuesday, June 14, 2011

THRONE OF BLOOD (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

I've started reading this great joint biography of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune called "The Emperor And The Wolf", and am concurrently having my own private Kurosawa film festival! I would invite you all to attend, but with me and the lady Lou and the whippet John Doggington in the bed, it's a little crowded already...

First rickshaw off the rank is Throne Of Blood (Spiders Web Castle was the Japanese title), Kurosawa's adaptation of Macbeth. He massages the story somewhat, and even though it features several elements of traditional japanese Noh theatre, what makes it so good is that it doesn't play stagey like most Shakespeare films, he makes a real movie out of it, and a fucking epic at that! When it rains, it buckets down like crazy, when it fogs the landscape is smothered, when an army storms a castle, there's a thousand of those motherfuckers shooting real arrows at you. And as you can see from the pics above, the more senior Samurai have some fabulous fancy headgear...

It looks incredible (the scene where they stumble across the witch in the forest is just pure spine tingling foggy night cinema gold), the pacing and constant sense of impending doom is just perfect, and of course Toshiro Mifune does his excellent Toshiro Mifune thing to the hilt as the tough samurai / henpecked husband / pawn of fate / guilty anxiety ridden freakout man Macbeth character. Isuzu Yamada is most excellent as his mask faced goading wife as well. Apparently later in his career when supervising a bunch of clips from his films being put together for an event honouring him, Mifune saw one of their scenes together and proclaimed "Forget about me, you should just show these scenes of Isuzu. Now THAT'S acting!"

Five stars out of 2!


The DVD I watched of it also had a commentary track by some scholar of japanese film who you expect to sound really nerdy but in fact sounds just like Steve Allen! He's really rather charming and seems to know everything about japanese film and film in general. There's plenty of "notice the very wide tree trunks, somewhat reminiscent of the 1912 german film Das Flinkenflocken, I don't know that Kurosawa had seen that particular picture but it is eminently possible he had..."

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