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Tony Grist

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The Hidden Fortress [Jun. 17th, 2004|10:19 am]
Tony Grist
A happy film- and almost entirely shot in the open air.

Much is made of the connection with Star Wars. George Lucas acknowledges that R2D2 and C3PO are versions of Kurosawa's two peasant farmers.

But notice the difference. Lucas's droids are sweet-natured, plucky and as cuddly as things entirely made of metal can be. K's farmers are thieves and cowards and wannabe rapists- a kind of punk Laurel and Hardy.

Hidden Fortress is a much better film than Star Wars. Need it be said? Yes it needs. Star Wars gets voted the greatest movie of all time these days.

As so often with K the women say little but provide the moral centre. The all but mute servant girl is braver than any samurai.

Moments of extreme movement- horses galloping, armies deploying, figures running through the woods.
Moments of extreme stillness- three figures tied to stakes, a fourth looking on; The princess sings.

I want a hat like Mifune's. Lacquered steel with a half moon soldered to the crown. To write a LiveJournal is to be a ronin. You have to be prepared to point your spear and go "aaaaargh" when other samurai come barging into the frame.

From: isoldout
2004-06-17 07:18 am (UTC)
Most of the time I really dislike George Lucas for doing that to Kurosawa. It bothers me that he gets the vote for Best Movie Of All Time every year and Spielberg gets voted Best Director of All Time. What!?

Wouldn't you agree that elements from Kurosawa's films have been ripped off by American filmmakers more than any other filmmaker around? With his samurai films turned into westerns, his narrative style being used from cop dramas to silly high school films, his characters being adapted into space robots, and his ability to make a small room seem larger than life by simply keeping the camera moving.

Kinda make me wonder.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-17 08:13 am (UTC)
Well, it's not all one way. Kurosawa acknowledged a huge debt to John Ford. One of the reasons that Seven Samurai and Yojimbo were so easy to turn into westerns is that Kurosawa had already conceived them in those terms. The homage is flagrant. I mean the villain in Yojimbo even touts a six gun.

I guess the degree to which it's a rip off depends on how good the resulting films are. All artists steal from their predecessors. Sergio Leone, for instance, does something interesting with the things he's borrowed/stolen from Kurosawa. He takes the tradition a step further.

Kurosawa perfected a style of narrative cinema. It's no wonder everyone imitates him. He's the best.

I'm not a huge fan of Star Wars. Last time I saw it I thought, God but this is cheesy. Hidden Fortress is definitely not cheesy.

But Lucas and co. repaid their debt. They drummed up American backing for the final films of Kurosawa's career. Without Lucas, Coppola, Spielburg and Scorsese we wouldn't have Ran.

Have you seem Dreams? A supremely beautiful, defiantly uncommercial movie- and again made possible by Kurosawa's powerful American fans. Scorsese turns in an acting cameo as Van Gogh! Weird casting, weird movie- and a unique and touching instance of two great masters honouring one another while paying tribute to a third.
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From: isoldout
2004-06-17 08:22 am (UTC)
Very true about the John Ford connection.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I am a huge Leone and Scorsese fan. Yes, I've seen Ran and Dreams, and I loved both of them. The latter, yes, being as uncommercial as they come. I love seeing Scorsese play a part in a film that is not his own.

Yes, Star Wars is cheesy and appeals to a whole generation of nerds that have been neglected by either their family, their romantic partners, or both.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-17 08:41 am (UTC)
What I don't get about the Star Wars thing is how the fans continue to turn up for the prequels even though they acknowledge that they're shite. Talk about brand loyalty!
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From: amritarosa
2004-06-17 11:14 am (UTC)
Thanks for the recommend- I want to go rent this movie now.

I've seen a few other Kurosawa, and they always make me think of my old ceramics professor. He was tall and wide, with bright pink skin and snow white hair that flew everywhere (he had a very disobedient comb-over). He used to invite bunches of students over to his hom to watch movies & Kurosawa was a favorite director.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-17 12:48 pm (UTC)
Kurosawa is wonderful. I'm on a Kurosawa spree. Honestly, I'm not sure he ever made a bad movie.

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[User Picture]From: balirus
2004-06-17 11:20 am (UTC)
You have to be prepared to point your spear and go "aaaaargh" when other samurai come barging into the frame

Wouldn't that be fantastic? There's a commercial for the N-Gage cell phone/game machine making the rounds right now on U.S. tv that I really like. I couldn't find a video, but here's a great description of it:

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-17 12:45 pm (UTC)
I'd like to see that.
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