Category: Main Slate

April 12, 2010 / / Main Slate

By William Benker

The Hidden Fortress – 1958 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress stands apart from most of his feudal Japan films, primarily due to the near complete absence of war and swordplay.  While the usual mix of steel, flames and water are still present within the film, Hidden Fortress carefully selects the elements Kurosawa wishes to focus on.  The common element that reveals its importance in scene after scene, portrayed in various forms, is wood.  On a quest to smuggle a princess outside enemy lines, samurai general Makabe (Toshiro Mifune) must drag along two greedy peasants to help carry the bounty meant to rebuild the remains of their fallen country.

April 6, 2010 / / Main Slate

By William Benker

Throne of Blood – 1957 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

The power of prophecy and influence drives Akira Kurosawa’s revitalized Macbeth in Throne of Blood.  In the midst of feudal Japan, Washizu (played by Kurosawa regular, Toshiro Mifune) bears witness to the complete corruption and dissection of himself by his own hand.  Kurosawa’s grim look at the sheer power of outside influence strikes at the heart of Throne of Blood, truly expressing what is sacrificed when one loses himself in another’s foreboding.  The intricate maze of self-deception, paranoia and selfishness leaves little to wonder at beside the rigid forest that guards Spider Web Castle.

March 29, 2010 / / Main Slate

By William Benker

The Bad Sleep Well – 1960 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s neo-noir The Bad Sleep Well is a hybrid examination on the evil of revenge. Drawn by a thread of vengeance, each turn of events show that evil only grows more complex when driven by a sense of justice.  While the film’s protagonist Nishi (Toshiro Mifune) reveals his vengeful pursuit through an embezzlement scandal that consumes his company, Kurosawa unravels the evil dimension that has trapped each and every character involved.  It proves in the end that no matter what type of justice is sought after, the dirt it always on someone else’s hands.  When all is said and done, the cleanest hands suffer the greatest loss.

March 29, 2010 / / Main Slate

By William Benker

Seven Samurai – 1954 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

The philosophical insight Akira Kurosawa unleashes in his epic Seven Samurai stands above most war films ever produced.  Though the portrayal of war is common among films, the true essence of conflict itself is often times overlooked.  The manner and tempo with which Kurosawa delivers his epic is where the message emerges.  With a steady pace and extensive view into every facet of struggle, the director breaches the threshold of cinematic philosophy into a new realm of artistic meaning.  In 16th century Japan, the framework of conflict is embodied within seven selfless warriors who use all of their abilities to defeat a clan of bandits.  Kurosawa’s stark vision of life itself is extrapolated in the picture.  Constantly put into question by smaller battles along the way, the director paints a decadent landscape of morality, giving audiences the very essence of cinema and story in its most ancient form.  Seven Samurai is a perfect step-by-step guide into the very heart of conflict.

March 22, 2010 / / Main Slate

By Melvin Cartagena                    

Stray Dog – 1949 – Akira Kurosawa

The parallels between Kurosawa and Scorsese, and more specifically between their leading men, Toshiro Mifune and Robert DeNiro, are so close that the worn accusation of Kurosawa being ‘too Western’ by conservative Japanese film scholars becomes a somewhat fair one. Regardless, Kurosawa crafted majestic dramas with universal themes, experienced at a human scale, but seen against a larger backdrop that both played against and complimented the subjects of his signature films, his leading men. In the same way that Scorsese showed us how the fading Little Italy of his youth produced men like Charlie and Johnny Boy in Mean Streets (1973), in Stray Dog (1949) Kurosawa presents a  multi-leveled action drama that plays itself out in the ruins of post-war Japan, the backdrop that spawned men like Murakami (Mifune) and Yusa (Isao Kimura), his nemesis and mirror image.

March 18, 2010 / / Main Slate

Big Fish – 2003 – dir. Tim Burton

Tim Burton’s Big Fish is an homage to everything that we were, everything that we are, and everything that we will be.  What really bakes your noodle is the reveal that it’s all happening, every moment, all at once.

Based on the novel by mythology enthusiast Daniel Wallace (watch for a cameo of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces on Ed Bloom’s nightstand), Big Fish is a tale about everything big in our lives: the worlds of our childhood, the worlds of being in love, and the worlds of responsibility, maturity, death, and beyond.

March 2, 2010 / / Main Slate

By Melvin Cartagena

High & Low – 1963 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

The film has such assertive direction that it slips without effort from power play drama to suspense thriller to police procedural/manhunt chase to high drama. In spite of this blend of genres that for a lesser director would take three or four films to fully unravel in its complexity, this film is all Kurosawa, an assured and heady blend of action, drama and objective humanity.

February 8, 2010 / / Main Slate
February 2, 2010 / / Main Slate