Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Hidden Fortress (1958)


Two greedy peasants (Minoru Chiaki & Kamatari Fujiwara) assist General Matakishi (Toshiro Mifune) and Princess Yuki (Misa Uehera) escape as their country falls to a rival clan, along with 400 kan worth of gold.

"Hide a stone among stones and a man among men."

Quick, name the most important Kurosawa films. Ok, done yet? Just out of curiosity did Hidden Fortress make it onto your list? Nope? I didn't think so. You see, out of all of Kurosawa's films Hidden Fortress is the one, I would argue, is most overlooked in terms of cinematic importance. Then again, out of all of his movies, it's not one of his stronger ones. So, what makes it so important? Well I'm glad you asked.

Building the escape epic, Hidden Fortress' simple narrative of a princess escaping laid the groundwork for a plot that would eventually be molded into what we now know as Star Wars. You know, a sci-fi film from the 70's, maybe you've heard of it. Beyond that, Hidden Fortress is also well noted for being perhaps the most mainstream of Kurosawa's film resume. It's action packed, riddled with tension, backed by funny, easy to love characters. There's some moral undertones, but for the most part Hidden Fortress is about the adventure.

Perhaps most importantly though is the character of Princess Yuki, played impeccably well by Misa Uehera. She's a strong minded, high moral, and tough female character. Something seldom found in 50's Japanese cinema, even with Kurosawa. Throughout the film, her character is developed, and grows both in mind and body, and really becomes someone for the audience to cheer for. The two greedy peasants (whose point of view the movie is centered on) also grow to become lovable odd-balls. While Mifune is a delight as the over the top samurai general, whose one mission is the protection of the Yuki, regardless of the costs.

Combined this makes Hidden Fortress such an enjoyable film to view. Still not all is perfect. It spends a bit too much time on buildup, and gets lost in some repetitive actions, and a few silly fight scenes. All of which is forcefully counteracted by swift movements, and zany character moments. It's desire to not take itself too seriously, while still carrying some moral and emotional impact, allows it to run through fine, never become something it isn't. The landscapes, and setup became staples of Kurosawa fans, and its designs seem just as great today as I'm sure they did back then.

While it isn't as strong as many of his films, Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress maintains interest and fans because of its dedication to light-hearted entertainment, and lovable characters.

4 better thoughts:

Michaël Parent said...

Wow! I really love your reviews Ryan! Especially because I love Kurosawa. I agree that Hidden Fortress is too often overlooked. Because, Kurosawa demonstrated he can do an entertaining and funny film: something different of his other films. I've never seen a perfect adventure film and I think its one of the "qualities" of the genre. We can forget its flaws!

S.F.H. said...

Hi brother! Look I read it! If it is in any way like starwars as you somewhat hinted at then I want to watch it O:-)

you can add it to my list.....

also do you know any art bloggers/ art movie bloggers?........just asking I'll do that whole searching on my own thing too :P

But congratualtions on succesful writing I now want to see a second kurosawa film..... gods only knows what has come over me! {just kidding O:-)}

Univarn said...

@Michael Thanks! I'd agree it's one of the qualities, I'm just a picky grader when it comes to movies ;).

@SFH Heyah sis :P. Hope all is well. Since I own this one it'll be easier to get you to watch this ;)

NoelCT said...

I just recently discovered your blog and am delighting in your thoughtful, spot-on reviews. Great stuff.

If you ever get a chance to review Kurosawa's early work THE MEN WHO TREAD ON THE TIGER'S TAIL, I'd love to hear your thoughts, since it's very much an early draft of what would become THE HIDDEN FORTRESS.

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