The Hidden Fortress (1958)


Link: The Hidden Fortress

Summary: Fancying themselves bounty hunters, two friends search for a missing princess, hoping to collect the bountiful reward offered for her capture.  But the bumbling greedy fools only end up aiding the small team secretly trying to save her.

Thoughts: A very enjoyable film, definitely one of Kurosawa’s more accessible and adventurous works.  His camera work for the wide screen is a visual feast.  I thought the film’s one weakness was its pacing; certain sequences in the second half simply go on for too long.  Toshiro Mifune’s spear-fighting sequence was engaging, but some of the following sequences dragged on a bit too long.  Perhaps the ending just needed too many plot points to occur to make it appropriately dramatic.  At least it’s nothing like the long final sequence of Kagemusha, eh?  Still, it’s a fun film.

Trivia: On the blu-ray’s bonus features, George Lucas says that it was this film that gave him the idea to center Star Wars around two comic-relief characters, in his case a pair of droids.

Sanjuro (1962)

Link: Yojimbo & Sanjuro

Summary: The nameless ronin from Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961) helps nine samurai defend against some kind of plot by scheming officials.

Thoughts: As you might guess based on my summary, I found this film I bit confusing.  I wasn’t quite sure what exactly the villains were plotting, so I wasn’t quite sure what the entire conflict was all about.  Still, even without understanding the intricacies of the overall plot, the main character’s clever counter-schemes were engaging, at times hilarious, while the nine samurai’s torment over whether or not to trust this nameless samurai kept things interesting.  The swordfights were well choreographed, but the comedy of the overall plot drained them of some of their dramatic power.  The film features some more of Kurosawa’s great cinematographic style, and it was nice to hear the musical themes from Yojimbo revisited.  Overall, though, the film is no match for Yojimbo, which remains my favorite Kurosawa film (of the ones I’ve seen).  Perhaps the overall conflict, being of a more political-scheming nature, just feels too light-hearted or abstract for me.  Still, I found it to be an enjoyable film.