Thursday, November 1, 2012


What is there to say about The Hidden Fortress, Akira Kurosawa's 1958 extravaganza? It's just a fun film, one of his greatest.

It's starts out both comic and tragic, with two rubber-faced peasants arguing in a battlefield. They don't want to be soldiers anymore, but the enemy clan's army holds the pass. Alone in the wilderness, they find find a few pieces of gold, probably from the hoard of the defeated clan. Just when they are feeling good about this, they run into Toshiro Mifune, and silent woman.

Mifune plays his part way larger than life, wearing tiny shorts, an open vest and a ferocious scowl. The woman is dressed for travel, but has the most outrageous glamour makeup. You would think anyone could tell that she was a princess in disguise.

I had remembered this movie as an intimate story of our tiny band sneaking and skulking through the countryside. It has moments like that, but I had forgotten about the sweep and grandeur of some of the scenes, like the prison break at the castle, with hundreds of extras swirling up and down the castle steps.

In fact, this is less an art film and more a swashbuckling adventure, even though there are fewer swordfights than in some samurai movies. That George Lucas was influenced by this when he made Star Wars is definitely believable.

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