Film Micrœview #39: Hidden Fortress (1958)

01.04.2014 § Leave a comment

really loved the depth and structure of this shot. couldn't've been done without Tohoscope!

really loved the depth and structure of this shot. couldn’t’ve been done without Tohoscope!

Rating: Good.
I still haven’t seen all of Akira Kurosawa’s movies. I can see how Star Wars would be influenced by Hidden Fortress in both form and content. Even Akizuki’s crescent symbol reminded me of the Rebellion’s, and the octagonal Kawana symbol reminded me of the Empire’s.
As usual for Kurosawa, awesome cinematography and score and Mifune.
I felt like the peasant plot was a little overdrawn. Especially at the end it was almost so overdrawn that it might have been intentional. Like a Hollywood film, there were thematic callbacks; for example, Mifune’s character fails at an attempt to reverse psychologize his princess, but succeeds at it later against the enemy. And the theme of “hiding in plain sight” recurs in many forms throughout. But unlike a Hollywood film, the callbacks are subtle, in both timing and implementation (see modern Pixar for examples of callbacks so patently obvious that it’s insulting). The most central to Hidden Fortress’s success of these callbacks is the one relating the kindness Mifune’s sister’s sacrifice to the kindness of Mifune’s sparing his enemy’s life in a dual*. Both of these acts deeply question feudal Japanese values, of indebtedness and honor. Plus. If I were to redo Hidden Fortress myself, I might linger on Mifune’s enemy’s catharsis rather than the catharsis of the greedy peasants; I find the former much more complex and interesting. As it was, the enemy’s betrayal was just a surprise, a deus ex machina that felt not quite earned.
*Though what choice did Mifune really have there, caught by the enemy? At the time of that scene, it seemed to me simply his genius escape plan (I even wondered if Mifune calculated that the spear would afford him this option from the start when weapons were picked). Besides, it was a gamble — he didn’t know the enemy would concede rather than persist futilely after his spear had been broken; they created this situation together. Anyway, this scene was by far the best in the film. When Mifune beamed back, it spoke such volumes, and I beamed too.

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