Friday, March 12, 2010

Throne of Blood (1957)


Samurai Lord (Toshiro Mifune) and scheming wife (Isuzu Yamada) enact plan to remove the Emperor from power, and stake their own claim, following an oracle prophecy.

"...ambition is false fame and will fall, death will reign, man falls in vain"

Out of all of Kurosawa's films, Throne of Blood is inarguably the one I have the most difficulty reviewing. Among those theatrically inclined it is one, if not the, greatest of Kurosawa's film selection. While those who seek out a more calm, seductively smooth, flair, this movie tends to fall on hollow disinterest. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I fall dead smack in the center.

The over the top performances add extreme emotion to the scenes, but can easily be misconstrued as comical, and not emotional. Mifune and Yamada are marvelous in the depth, and gusto they bring to each scene. Added to the solid supporting cast, and writing of Shakespeare, anyone can see why many consider this to be his true masterpiece. The writing, dialogue, and storytelling are premium, but even still I couldn't escape the off giggle at improper moments. It all seems just a tad too over the top for me. Such a strong story needs strong acting, and at times I wonder if Kurosawa's love for theatricality in acting doesn't make it a bit too off-putting, especially for those with my taste.

Even still, few handle direction as well as Kurosawa, and here he is at his A-game. It's strong, direct, touching on the mystical, but mostly concerned with the characters. There's a dark understand in the lighting, and an ever growing sense of claustrophobia in the rooms. It's great when all of these tie together, but I'm never certain it's as well tied together as it should have been. Kurosawa's minor changes (primarily towards the end) of Shakespeare's tale, leave me a bit befuddled. They're ok, but I think they take away from some of the story's natural irony, and dark comedic moments. Not the worst you can do, but still, I think it's no where near perfect.

Throne of Blood is the sort of Kurosawa film that truly divides its audiences. Yet I think it's well worth the chance, especially if you find it to be one of the grand masterpieces you've been searching for.

Alternate Perspectives:

"I had issues with characters and certain plot points related to characters but all of the technical brilliance you would expect from a Kurosawa film starring Mifune is there." - GmanReviews

Throne of Blood is one of the truly grand achievements in the history of cinema!" - Brian's Film Review Blog

1 better thoughts:

Alex said...

Somehow I didn't know this one was an adaptation of Macbeth- I've heard of the film, but didn't know the story I guess. I'm interested in how Kurosawa would handle the plot, but I'm wary of over-acting spoiling some of the more serious moments. Good to know in advance though, so I'll be ready!

PS Is Kurosawa's penchant for over-acting linked to traditional kabuki theatre or something? Or is it just a thing about his movies?

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