Incantations of Greed – THE HIDDEN FORTRESS

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.

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THE LAST PICTURE SHOW

By Peggy Nelson

The Last Picture Show – 1971 – dir. Peter Bogdanovich

The Last Picture Show (dir. Peter Bogdanovich, 1971) presents the enigma of the old western wrapped in the mystery of the new.  Set in the early 1960s in a windswept Texas town — the kind of small town that springs up on the way from somewhere to somewhere else — the story focuses on two high school seniors, Sonny and Duane, co-captains of a football team so monumentally inept that at one point they manage to lose 121 – 14.  The future they face seems as bleak as the empty streets in the town and the endless flat plains of the surrounding land.  They sense it as they stumble through the paces of late adolescence: girlfriends, jobs, uncertainty.
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