Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The story of a great actor

There never was a movie star quite like Toshiro Mifune, still best known for the work he did with director Akira Kurosawa in movies such as Roshomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, and Yojimbo. In the documentary Mifune: The Last Samurai, director Steven Okazaki takes us through Mifune's amazing career, reminding us of the greatness of Mifune's collaboration with Kurosawa and giving us insights into a filmography that spanned more than 40 years. Okazaki provides a historical view of the samurai film which, in Kurosawa's hands, transcended the confines of a well-worn genre. Okazaki interviews one of Mifune's sons and many of the now-aging actors who worked with him. He supplements those interviews with news footage from various periods in Mifune's post-war life, particularly the moment when movies constituted a war-ravaged Japan's only form of entertainment. An actor of irrepressible energy, Mifune commanded the screen like few others. He had both the rugged humor and unabashed wildness of a weed grown from the earth's rawest soil, but also could reflect a mighty stillness. Not all of Mifune's work -- particularly in his later years -- lived up to the standard he established with Kurosawa, but the history of cinema is inconceivable without him. Mifune died in 1997 at the age of 77. By now, just about every film buff knows that the Kurosawa/Mifune films were powerful influences on filmmakers such as George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, but they stand by themselves as classics of 20th Century cinema. Okazaki's documentary reminds of why.

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