My Favorite Movies – The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Fuck that Star Wars bullshit!

Spoilers

This is my favorite Kurosawa samurai picture. It is the most entertaining, it isn’t very long, it has a badass female main character, and it has one of the most epic one on one duels of his entire career. And perhaps my love for this movie contributes to my hatred of Star Wars, but I think when you compare the two, it’s obvious which one is similar. Star Wars doesn’t hold a fucking cigarette lighter to Fortress.

Toshiro Mifune might just be my favorite foreign actor of all time. On top of being incredibly charismatic, he just has a ton of range. Compare his performance in High and Low to his performance in Seven Samurai, and you see that the man could play very different kinds of characters. And in the case of The Hidden Fortress, I think Mifune shows just how funny he can be. The introduction to his character is him standing with  his hands on his hips, looking disapprovingly at two vagrants who have just discovered secret gold. It’s hard to explain what happens next without rambling, but you can find the film free to watch somewhere on the internet, and I recommend watching it. I’ll just say that it is the scene where Mifune sits down at the fire.

The set design for this movie is fairly standard for a Kurosawa samurai film (which is by no means a negative). The way that it distinguishes itself is by including a lot of natural structures, like cliffs and forest paths and springs. It is probably the Kurosawa film that nature lovers will get the most out of, because Kurosawa makes it all look great. The costume design is as good as it ever is.

Of course Kurosawa is the master director, so everything about this film is excellently executed, but in particular, I want to point out the duel between Mifune and that other general. People talk about that scene in the red room in The Last Jedi as being excellently choreographed, but when you compare it to what it is clearly trying to emulate, it isn’t anywhere near as impressive. This duel feels very real, like it has stakes. The choreography team did an excellent job making it look like these were professional warriors, but not Gods who have some magical ability to move things in an absurd way. That’s what I hate about the lightsaber fights in the recent Star Wars movies, they all feel so phony and lame, they don’t look real at all. This shit looks real. Probably because it was mostly real, but I digress.

The princess in this film is also a very unique one in Kurosawa’s filmography. Altough he was a true genius in the realm of storytelling, his female characters aren’t always as well written as his male ones, which he admitted. I don’t think this stems from any sort of sexism or bias, I think he just didn’t grow up in a situation that encouraged him to try to understand or relate to women. However, there are exceptions, and the most notable among them is this film, where the main female character is totally awesome. She’s very energetic and clever, and she ranks among the most entertaining and interesting of Kurosawa’s entire career.

Although they don’t get top billing, the two main characters here are really the two vagrants. They’re the ones whose story we’re following. And if anyone knows the two actors names, I can’t distinguish them from IMDb and I’d like to know who is who. They’re picture is the one I used for this post up there, so if you know, please tell me in the comments.

The Hidden Fortress is fun AND an all around excellently made film. I don’t have a problem with that at all.

10/10

Thank you, and remember kids, stupid friends are dangerous.

 

Also, check out the latest episode of my podcast.

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