蜘蛛巣城: Theatrics

[Screenshot]Yow. Most Kurosawa is all about the cinematic technique. That’s in evidence here as well, with some interesting tracking and panoramic shots, but what jumped out at me was not the camerawork so much as the acting and pacing. Kurosawa, who essentially invented Japanese cinema, drew his inspiration, logically enoguh, in large part from theatrical conventions. Japanese theatrical traditions are somewhat unusual from a Western perspective: they’re more expressive, and generally more leisurely, with stronger emphasis on movement than speech. All of Kurosawa’s films display theatrical influence to some extent, but Throne of Blood really plays highly into these conventions, and in particular Noh dramatic structuring, so there’s chanting and a lot of stately music and highly evocative acting. It works real well.

One of the reasons it works real well is Toshiro Mifune. I remember Mifune doing well in an off-center role in Rashomon, but I didn’t get much to bring home from his performance in Yojimbo. But he puts on an absolutely stellar performance here, with acting that is both blatantly expressive (conforming to the theatrical tradition), and nuanced at the same time. Probably his single best scene is the one in which he’s promoted in accordance with the prophesy he mocked. In his eyes, and in his motions, we see discomfort, doubt, and a valiant attempt to quash his emotions. It’s hard enoguh to emote repressed feelings without lending nuance to those repressed feelings, but he does and it works. It’s fantastic and let me know I was in for a treat. It also helped his character appear sympathetic through much of the film: unlike Macbeth, who at the slightest nudge from his wife turns into a monster, Washizu’s every movement betrays his discomfort and guilt.

In a nutshell, this is the best acting I’ve seen in a Kurosawa film—even my gaijin aesthetic can appreciate this performance. And it’s a take on Shakespeare, which I find at least amusing when it manages to change the context and retain the plot. Ran also did that well.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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