Friday, April 20, 2007


Today's double-feature in Maryland: I watched Akira Kurosawa's excellent Throne of Blood (Kumonosu jô, 1957, a remake of Macbeth)*, and Kenji Mizoguchi's bleakly lavish Sansho the Bailiff (Sanshô dayû, 1954).* I suspect Shakespeare's tragedy, a damnation of ambitious greedmongering, fit nicely into director Kurosawa's thematic interests during Japan's post-war years. Mr. Kurosawa places his revamping in the literal fog of feudal antiquity, as Washizu, played by the athletic Toshiro Mifune, begins his rapid ascent to shogun of Spider's Web Castle by marching to the beat of his own moral decay. On the battlefields, ancient Japan is recreated with Kurosawa's typical fealty to period adventure: sweeping feats of charging samurai bristling with armaments and fluttering banners of station. Inside the castle, however, we are treated to a Shakespearian Japan: a linear and immaculately staged contemplation of the interior forces driving this play. Here, "staged" indicates the practices, gestures, and costuming of traditional Japanese Noh theater rather than the Shakespearian Globe. Never is this more frighteningly realized than in the character of Asaji, who, with her porcelain makeup and ethereal mannerisms, presents a Lady Macbeth without extraneous humanity: she's stripped to the sum of her ill intentions. In Sansho the bailiff, master director Kenji Mizoguchi returns to his notion of abandonment and precarious living in a world without mercy. A benevolent governor is forcibly transferred into ostensible exile. His family must travel roads grown treacherous with bandits and famine in an attempt to somehow reunite. Of course they are captured by villains, separated, and sold. Thus, the children are enslaved by the cruel magisterial bailiff Sansho for the decade it takes them to mature into escapees. Meanwhile, mother sings mournfully from her seaside cathouse prison. Not as upbeat as I am making it sound, the movie is nevertheless remarkably good. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

Post a Comment

<< Back to the Beginner.
<< To main Update page.