What’s a Blog-a-thon? This movie exchange is a challenge, its participants have chosen films the other has not seen to watch and review.
Chris’ criteria for Marcey: Samurai Films
Why Chris Chose This Film For Marcey: When one thinks of samurai films they immediately think of the films of Akira Kurosawa, and what better place to start the March blog-a-thon than with one of Kurosawa’s best films, The Hidden Fortress. For those familiar with film lore, The Hidden Fortress was the film that inspired George Lucas’s script for his 1977 masterpiece, Star Wars, it was also the very first Kurosawa film I saw as a young lad. I chose this as the first film for Marcey to watch because it is a great film told from the perspective of two peasants who have become caught up in a civil war rather than that of a ronin or samurai warrior.
A long time ago in Japan … two peasants greedy for gold agree to help a man and a woman cross the enemy lines with lots of gold, little do they know the man is a General and the woman is a Princess.
It does seem weird to me that I actually haven’t seen The Hidden Fortress until now, I do enjoy the films of Akira Kurosawa (The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, to name a few). So why did I skip this one? I don’t even know, but I am really glad that Chris chose this film for me to watch this month. The Hidden Fortress is not your traditional samurai film, it is an adventure film, with laughs and action mixed into it. And yes, this film did inspire George Lucas with Star Wars – very evident when watching it too.
The film is told from the point of view of the two idiot peasants, who manage to stumble upon a situation they really never understand. They find a man who tells them about gold, and he likes their plan of going behind enemy lines to get to friendly territory. Little do the peasants know, the gold is to rebuild their people and the man is a General, protecting a Princess who needs to get to safety. The peasants believe he is just a greedy man and the woman is a mute who does not know any better. Along the way they pick up a woman, who was bought and sold after her people were raided. The Princess unable to stand this treatment of one of hers convinces the general to buy her, to save her.
This is an epic journey, from meeting the two peasants Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara), and being scared constantly that their actions will ruin the mission. To getting to know General Rokurota Makabe (Toshirô Mifune) and seeing his almost father like relationship to the Princess, Yuki (Misa Uehara) who is also quite a firecracker. The story does take some time to develop, the peasants do not meet the General right away, and the finding of the Hidden Fortress of the title takes a little bit as well. Then the second half of the film is the journey in which they take to get the Princess and the gold to where they can be safe and used.
It is a long film, but it is an entertaining one, while for me personally it was a little too long, it really didn’t have a dull moment. Whether there are laughs with the constant bickering or watching as the Princess explores life on the other side, there is always something going on. Kurosawa got to film this in widescreen, the first of his films to get this treatment. He really took advantage of that, the visuals feel grand, every frame feels like it does have a purpose and there is always something to see. The action is really well handed, the spear duel is an incredible sequence and it had me on the edge of my seat. There is a lot of precision with this film, and a lot of passion is evident.
I really enjoyed taking this journey, and it was nice to discover a film that was very influential on George Lucas as it is with many others. It feels like a film I will want to watch again over time, and take that epic journey once again. Adventure films really aren’t made like this any more, a shame because this is a really fun one to experience.
You can purchase The Hidden Fortress through MadMan – http://www.madman.com.au/catalogue/view/3970/the-hidden-fortress