Mifune The Last Samurai (2015)

Cut

Vision is the strangest thing. If we see too much of something we believe it less.

Stories are like this; the things that are left out can carry the agency more powerfully, and often the missing is referenced by the obvious. I like filmmakers that understand this. Scorsese is all about the lead actor. His camera follows him on a tether and we are supposed to engage with intense emotional acrobatics.

Spielberg is all about story, specific threads as they unroll and he needs clear, crisp characters to carry those threads. Both appear here talking about what they liked with Mifune. It makes me cry. Both are so frozen in their specific approaches to the craft that they cannot see what utility Kurosawa had in Mifune.

I believe that often a filmmaker or actor will be the last person with insight about the art they make. David Lynch is my case study, because what he does moves me, and what he thinks he does is vapid.

Kurosawa is about situation, which puts him roughly in the same camp as Wells and Tarkovsky. Situation needs actors. Kurosawa needs a foreground so that he can build a rich background. It is the background that matters in his films, and why he was such an innovator, not because he guided an energetic lead. Of course he needed a lead.

I am now watching ‘Man Without a Map’ by a filmmaker who understands this. He chose a lead with similar presence, Shintarô Katsu, famous for the samurai Zatoichi. Unlike Mifune, this actor understands the intent of the filmmaker and occupies both an increasingly blurry foreground and a similarly advancing background.

Kurosawa and Mifune parted ways because Mifune never understood that he was not the sun. Kurosawa became depressed because his funders never understood his layered imagination. It is easy to see this lack of vision, even with America’s most successful entertainment moguls.

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.

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