October 25, 2009

We Came, We Saw, We Discussed (Kurosawa)

Well, I have to commend Trudi. It didn't take much from me to convince her to watch Akira Kurosawa's 1957 Macbeth adaptation Throne of Blood. In fact, it was the viewing of a miserable Hans Conreid fantasy called The Twonky on Turner Classic Movies (!) that led us both to put on TOB, which I had received recently from Netflix.

The good news: We watched the entire film together. The bad news: Trudi didn't like it very much.

So was I disappointed? A bit--but not too much. This is a different movie from The Emperor's The Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, both of which Trudi enjoyed. TOB is deliberately stylized, a la the Noh theater from which it draws much of its inspiration, and the fact that the story was known to Trudi made the proceedings less suspenseful (though I pointed out that it was not a literal translation, and the Grand Guignol-type ending is more Kurosawa than Shakespeare). And yes, Univarn, you're absolutely right: It probably would've been better to launch into more accessible Kurosawas, such as High and Low, Stray Dog or The Bad Sleep Well.

I have a confession, however, to make: I'm a sucker for jidai-geki, and I've always liked Kurosawa's period pieces better than his modern ones. So TOB it was.

I do give credit to Trudi for sitting through it, though. It's certainly not an easy one to watch, though it's quite rewarding. On this viewing, I revisited my amazement at some of Kurosawa's brilliant touches: a bleached white spirit weirdly running through the forest; a mass of birds flying into a castle room after escaping from the trees; and, of course, the famous final scene in which Toshiro Mifune's weak, ambitious Washizu/Macbeth gets perforated with a multitude of arrows.

It still works. And it's still the best onscreen adaptation, in my opinion, of Macbeth. Somehow, Kurosawa understood the pessimistic, misanthropic nature of the play, and was able to translate it brilliantly to the screen in another context.

But don't worry, Trudi--that's enough Shakespeare for now. I'll make sure my queue in Netflix has something that's easier to digest up next, like Julie Taymor's adaptation of Titus Andronicus.

Just kidding, Trudi.

1 comment:

  1. Well sorry it didn't go so well. A long while back I wrote an article on why I love Kurosawa so much... I tend to be a big fan of period films but it's never stopped me from just loving his more modern work. The only ones I've yet to see is The Most Beautiful, Dreams, The Idiot, and Dersu Uzala. If you dare venture her into the realm of Kurosawa again perhaps you could try Sanjuro if she liked Yojimbo? Sanjuro's definitely a bit more violent, but it also shows a recurrent theme of the tragic moral warrior Kurosawa often returned to in his Samurai films.