Rashōmon (1950)

Although it’s been several years since I first watched Rashōmon, I’ve always avoided reviewing it, for the simple fact that this film, one of the most highly rated works of one of the world’s greatest directors, has been dissected and written about so frequently (and by people so much more capable of doing justice to it than I am), that the idea of reviewing it was always succeeded by the thought: what could I possibly write about Rashōmon that hadn’t been already written?

But after I reviewed The Woman in Question last week, I decided it was probably high time I did review Rashōmon. I have, after all, reviewed several films of this type: not exactly based on the Rashōmon Effect, but close to it, variations on the theme of multiple narratives. To not write about the film that gave this trope its name seemed like a gap that needed filling.

Toshiro Mifune and Machiko Kyo in Rashomon

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Kakushi-toride no san-akunin (1958)

Known in English as The Hidden Fortress, though the literal translation is The Three Villains of the Hidden Fortress. One of Akira Kurosawa’s finest samurai films.

I’ve made it a blog tradition that, every year on my birthday, I review a film featuring someone who shares the same birthdate as me, January 8. So, over the years, I’ve reviewed films starring Nanda, Fearless Nadia, Elvis Presley and José Ferrer, among others. This year, I decided it was time for a change. Two changes, actually. For one, the film I’m reviewing is neither in English nor in Hindi: it’s Japanese. And, the person who shares my birthday in this case—Japanese actor Susumu Fujita—isn’t one of the leads. In fact, he doesn’t even appear in the film till the second half. But he is there in The Hidden Fortress, and he’s a good actor. Plus, even though his role here is fairly small, it’s a critical one. Enough reason.

Susumu Fujita as General Hyoe Tadokoro in The Hidden Fortress. Continue reading

Tengoku to Jigoku (1963)

This blog’s been focussing on Hindi cinema for a while now, so I decided it was time to get back to being a bit more diverse. And this time with a film from one director whose work I admire a lot: Akira Kurosawa. If all you’ve seen of Kurosawa are his samurai films, I’d recommend Tengoku to Jigoku (High and Low) as a good way of getting introduced to the films he made in other genres. If you’ve never watched a Kurosawa, this is still one of his best films – and one of the best classic crime films I’ve seen.

Loosely based on King’s Ransom, a novel by American crime writer Ed McBain, Tengoku to Jigoku is about a kidnapping and its repercussions. The result is an unforgettable film that brilliantly combines the personal, the social, the psychological, the dramatic and the mundane, with the sheer sweat-and-drudgery of the police procedural.

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The Magnificent Seven (1960)

After having watched Akira Kurosawa’s brilliant Shichi-nin No Samurai last week, I figured it was time to rewatch this film, which goes so far as to mention that it’s based on Shichi-nin No Samurai. For me, The Magnificent Seven has much to recommend it. Firstly, it’s a Western, a genre I’m usually fond of (as long as it steers clear of the run-of-the-mill formulas that John Wayne acted in during the early 30’s—and which, sadly, continued in a lot of films well past the 30’s). Secondly, The Magnificent Seven stars one of my favourite actors, Yul Brynner. Thirdly, it was directed by John Sturges, the very capable man behind classic adventure films like Escape from Fort Bravo, The Great Escape, and Ice Station Zebra.

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Shichi-nin No Samurai (1954)

I first heard about this film when I was a child—The Magnificent Seven was being shown on TV, and one of my parents said it was based on Seven Samurai. End of story, for then.
I’ve grown up since. I’ve heard about the brilliance of Akira Kurosawa. And I’ve recently read that Shichi-nin No Samurai (Seven Samurai) was supposedly the first film ever to use the concept of a group of unconnected people being brought together for a common cause. It therefore seemed high time to finally see the film for myself.
Having just finished watching it, I’m still stunned. This is a mind-blowing film, colossal and profound, gut-wrenching and brooding and action-packed and funny and romantic and… Well, simply unforgettable.

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