It’s common Kurosawa knowledge that Japan’s greatest director was a huge fan of American westerns. The wandering warrior often casually walks into a village at war. What Kurosawa delivers in Yojimbo is a western all its own. Complete with stand offs, hostages and a local brewery, the film encompasses a variety of talents at work. Along with the usual duo of Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, Yojimbo exemplifies the valiant efforts that go on behind scenes, raising the film above most western/gangster stories to an experience so entertaining, it illustrates the significance it plays in later American cinema.
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.
NOTE: If you’ve not seen this evening’s movie before, you may wish to enjoy our program note after viewing My Man Godfrey.
Does My Man Godfrey have a happy ending?
Somehow I have trouble believing that Godfrey Parke (William Powell) is going to have the happiness with Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) that the surrendering Dr. Cary Grant is slated to enjoy with Katharine Hepburn as Bringing Up Baby comes to its rollicking end. Nor do Powell and Lombard seem destined to share the bliss of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert after their road adventures in It Happened One Night. Poor Godfrey has never indicated much more than patience and politeness toward Irene, while her tantrums and flights of fancy have made her seem less like an alluring woman and more like a child (albeit a sometimes delightful one) with each ensuing scene.