Update: In spite of this being one of my favorite movies, we might have to delay or cancel this one altogether. We have a kid recovering from some significant (non-emergency) surgery, and I think it’s going to take a little longer to recover than I thought.
This is one of my favorite Kurosawa movies.
So let’s start out talking about Akira Kurosawa.
He was born in 1910, and his first movies were released in wartime Japan. After the war, Kurosawa continued making films, and he didn’t always make happy films that depicted a happy Japan. His first collaboration with Toshiro Mifune was Drunken Angel, which portrayed a struggling post-war Japan rife with yakuza and afflicted by TB from stagnant water. Not the cheerful vision of post-war that the occupation forces hoped to express, and yet Drunken Angel is a riveting film.
Kurosawa made several films in the Jidaigeki tradition. Hidden Fortress is an epic story of a family who gets caught up in a war and wiped out. This movie is the direct inspiration for Star Wars, but I would argue that Lucas borrowed from many of Kurasawa’s films.
The character of Han Solo definitely seems to be modeled after the hero of Sanjuro. A disreputable ronin, we first see Sanjuro Tsubaki (not his real name) homeless and sleeping in a forest temple. He’s definitely a scoundrel, but he can also be “a nice guy”.
This movie is in some ways critical of the jidaigeki genre. While we have dashing moments of swashbuckling swordplay, we also have a sad reminder of the real costs of violence at the end of the film.
I hope you can catch this movie with us on June 12th!