• The pictorial beauty of Kurosawa’s landscape long shots are masterpiece worthy—Kurosawa makes great use of every extra, color flourish in the frame, and set piece –whether it’s the mountains in the final climax battle, the valley in the opening, or the castle on fire  in the film’s best sequence

one of sublime images in the opening of Kurosawa’s 27th feature film

  • Second to the stunning long shots-  I have to praise the formal elements Kurosawa goes back to again and again with the shot of the clouds and meditating on dreams and fate (the shot happens 7-8 times- once claiming “paradise”)—this cutaway shot should trigger muscle memory for students and admirers of Kurosawa as he implored a similar formal cutaway strategy in Rashomon. There’s probably even more meaning here tying the visual to the narrative as it is actually Lord Hidetora Ichimonji’s (played by Tatsuya Nakadai) dream

the shot (and variations on it) happen 7-8 times

formal elements– Kurosawa goes back to again and again with the shot of the clouds and meditating on dreams and fate —this cutaway shot should trigger muscle memory for students and admirers of Kurosawa as he implored a similar formal cutaway strategy in Rashomon

  • There’s a strong shot in the opening twenty minutes- in front of a mountain. Nakadai is flanked on both sides-  men facing him perfectly balanced back of heads. It doesn’t quite equate to Kurosawa’s early 1960’s work in Tohoscope black and white widescreen

There’s a strong shot in the opening twenty minutes- in front of a mountain. Nakadai is flanked on both sides-  men facing him perfectly balanced back of heads. It doesn’t quite equate to Kurosawa’s early 1960’s work in Tohoscope black and white widescreen

  • Another Kurosawa Shakespeare adaptation– King Lear but set in Feudal Japan—this makes for a companion piece to Throne of Blood of course (1957)
  • Gorgeous bright primary color costume work- a deserving winner of the Oscar for that category
  • Shot at 22 minutes- long shot on the hill

the art of the long shot– from Buster Keaton to Lawrence of Arabia 

Topography

  • There are really only two types of shots here in the film—there is the long shot (battle sequences mainly and establishing/landscape shots) and the medium shots where most of the dialogue is delivered—a chamber drama- interior shots that relatively unspecial visually. The long shots are stunning and I frankly wish it was more of running time— Kurosawa stages the battles so handsomely—and he uses the frame in long shot almost like a Buster Keaton or Tati film. Conversely, the dialogue-laden (though always sharp, engaging and a fantastic narrative) chamber drama portion of the film is stylistically quiet.
  • The continual self-interest in every character as an ongoing theme is nothing new to Kurosawa- he’s been doing it since Rashomon– dog-eat-dog nihilism

The continual self-interest in every character as an ongoing theme is nothing new to Kurosawa- he’s been doing it since Rashomon- dog-eat-dog nihilism

  • The entire cast is superb but Nakadai’s achievement is among the best of 1985 as is Mieko Harada as Lady Kaede as the Machiavellian wife of Lord Hidetora’s eldest son. Nakadai’s performance unsubtle—but it is fitting with the film and size of the character/ego.

The entire cast is superb but Nakadai’s achievement is among the best of 1985

  • The battles sequences with no audio except the non-diegetic music score is sublime—color guards. It is a five minute montage of the slaughter as the castle is sieged at the 1 hour mark. And echoes of Mifune in Throne of Blood as the arrows and pour in around Nakadai.

The battles sequences with no audio except the non-diegetic music score is sublime—color guards. It is a five minute montage of the slaughter as the castle is sieged at the 1 hour mark

  • Wood blocking/obstructing the frame like Rashomon

Wood blocking/obstructing the frame like Rashomon

…. there’s one in Kagemusha as well- often called Ran’s “dress rehearsal”

  •  long shot battle sequences with the extras is also a bit of a statement on the sheep-like or “crushed like ants” (in the text) while cursing the gods.  It’s not as apparent a criticism as say Chaplin with the sheep in the factor cutaway in Modern Times but still

long shot battle sequences with the extras is also a bit of a statement on the sheep-like or “crushed like ants” (in the text) while cursing the gods.

  • The film has gravitas like The Godfather –loyalties, lineage, families with vendettas–  it is no surprise that Coppola and Lucas were admirers of Kurosawa
  • The shot of Nakadai’s character leaving the burning castle and descending the steps at the 72 minute mark– with the red and yellow color guards on both sides is a jaw-dropper—a set-piece that has rarely been topped- reminded me of the sequence with the oil rig in PTA’s There Will Be Blood.

  • “it’s a mad world. Only the mad are sane”— Meditation on the downfall of pride as well
  • End is a fitting long shot

End is a fitting long shot

  • Camby in the Times (who I don’t go to often) speaks of Birth of a Nation, Napoleon and Ivan the Terrible– I’ve yet to see Gance’s film but I like the comparison to Eisenstein’s work especially – this is a true epic, 1000 + extras, detailed armor, the thundering noise of horses
  • Masterpiece- clearly Kurosawa still capable of one of his better films at the age of 75—and a few decades removed from his very best work in the 1950’s and early 1960’s