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The Hidden Fortress: The Princess Problem

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    Ugetsu

    When I first saw this film a couple of years ago I remember thinking that Misa Uehara was the weak link in the film – I thought she a very annoying presence in the film, all pout and attitude, but with no real character interest. It seems from comments on the discussion board of IMDB that I wasn’t alone in that view – a few comments there note that she didn’t have much of a career after the film. Bosley Crowther in the New York Times also seemed to be somewhat more amused by her acting than he was supposed to be.

    But on second viewing I was more intrigued – I think she did a pretty good job of standing up to some pretty high caliber competition for screen presence. She certainly didn’t do as good a job as Carrie Fisher in Star Wars in the *ahem* similar character, but I think I understood her character better – the comment that she’d been brought up as a boy by her father did explain why she was so un-feminine (in a Japanese sense).

    But reading through the various books and articles I have, there is a huge blank space about her – none of the usual suspects – Richie, Prince, Mellen, etc., have anything to say about her as an actress or a performer. Mellen in particular never mentions the character in her chapter on ‘Kurosawa’s Women’. Now I assumed at first that this was because Hidden Fortress is seen as a lightweight film and simply not worth the attention of AK’s other period films, but perhaps its also that the character (and performance) is simply seen as a bit of an embarrassment?

    I’m curious about this, because on my last viewing I came to the conclusion that she is actually the central character of the film, the moral heart. Since from the original title (assuming it is not meant ironically), the three main male characters (the two peasants and the general) are seen as ‘bad’ or ‘rogues’, then we are left with the Princess as the conscience of the film. She, most overtly rejects the feudal assumptions of all the characters (especially in saying that the Generals sister’s life is as valuable as hers), and she is the only one who insists on acts of goodness outside of the feudal framework (by rescuing the slave girl).

    So am I missing something, but why is she not considered in the long list of classic ‘Kurosawa heroes?

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    cocoskyavitch

    Nice catch, lawless. Of course, you are right. And, now we have our homework to do…to see if we can scrounge up anything about her performance, and whether or not it was considered “bad acting”. I’ll be interested to see what is found and discussed.

    Is the film setting up a “feudal hero”-Mifune, versus a “woman hero”? What do you make of the title, anyway? What three bad men?

    Mifune isn’t a bad man. He is bad to give his sister’s life-in a human sense that’s bad-but it is feudal code that he protect the princess at all cost.

    The two slapstick, hilarious “buddies” aren’t bad. They are opportunists, sure, but not really bad.

    That title confuses me.

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    Ugetsu

    Well, I shouldn’t post a question while sipping wine, I realise I didn’t express what I meant very clearly above – I should have distinguished more between the two aspects of what I’m interested in:

    1. Is her performance as bad as some people seem to think, and did this ruin her career before it even began? Its hard to find any information about Uehara, especially as there is another later actress with the same name.

    2. The more important point about the character of the Princess – why is so little attention paid to her in the pantheon of Kurosawa her(oin)es?

    Like coco, I’m a bit confused about the title too – the explanation that the General is a ‘bad’ man too isn’t very convincing to me. Even if there is an implicit criticism of his feudal loyalty, that surely doesn’t make him ‘bad’ or ‘roguish’ (unless perhaps there is a subtlety to the original Japanese word akunin I’m missing?) But then again, I can’t think of any other trio in the film. Maybe its implying that the film is intended to be an equally satirical view of the two peasants and the General, seeing them as ultimately pathetic (if lovable) characters, all three victims of a feudal society, while the Princess is the clear eyed ‘audience’ representing a modern view…. 🙄

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    lawless

    I saw the same IMDB discussions you did, Ugetsu. I think her performance is a little mannered and a bit over the top, but mostly what struck me oddly was how loud and shrill her voice was, especiailly before they set out, when she was still the princess and not the slave/servant girl. She did seem to be a bit of a spoiled, coddled character as well as a brave and moral one, but I suppose that’s to be expected. But that might be a cultural thing; I’ve heard similar cadences from actresses playing strong, domineering Chinese women (I’m thinking mostly of Kung Fu Hustle) as well as from some of my ethnically Korean aunts.

    I agree that the princess is the moral heart of the movie. The general and the peasants aren’t bad people necessarily (what was the original title and what did it mean? Was it “Three Bad Men”?) but they espouse, are stuck in, or accept the feudal view of things, in which certain people’s lives and interests are to be protected at all costs, even to death, whereas the princess espouses the modern humanistic view that everyone is equally important, which I think was also Kurosawa’s view. .

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    Vili Maunula

    Good questions, Ugetsu.

    I personally agree with what appears to be the general consensus, and say that Uehara’s performance is quite poor. The princess character is one of the few things that I actually preferred in the remake. For me, in Kurosawa’s original she is just too one-dimensional, too irritating and too loud. I see very little reason to root for her survival, which is a problem considering the story.

    Something that I have often pondered about is whether we (especially the male part of the audience) should see her as sexually stimulating. Are her bare legs displayed to us for that reason? Would I be more concerned about her survival if she had been played for instance by a young Jennifer Aniston, who I’m sure would have been able to be just as one-dimensional and annoying, but who I would have been far happier to stare at for two hours, especially if bare-legged? It’s not that Uehara is bad looking, but for some reason (maybe it’s the baggy pants?) she does absolutely nothing to me.

    It’s difficult to answer your second question, Ugetsu. But what I can tell you is that in addition to the usual suspects, my newest additions to the Kurosawa bookshelf — the Goodwin edited Perspectives on Akira Kurosawa (from 1994), David Desser’s The Samurai Films of Akira Kurosawa (1983), Post Script’s special edition Vol 20 Number 1 titled The Films of Kurosawa Akira (2000) and the brand new Censorship of Japanese Films by Lars-Martin Sorensen (reviews of all forthcoming) — don’t really talk about her, either. It’s an interesting point that she seems to be totally overlooked by Kurosawa criticism.

    My guess is that while you are right that the character is in some ways the centre of the film, the actress just never quite claims that place, so there isn’t much to say there. Or perhaps there is?

    The film title has puzzled me, too. The original Japanese 隠し砦の三悪人 pretty much translates as “Hidden fortress’s three villains”. In addition to trying to understand why they are villains, I remember how disappointed I was when I — as a fairly young kid — first saw the film and realised that the fortress promised to me was pretty much a run-down shack in a hole somewhere. They also don’t really become a real unit until they leave that hole, so why are they identified by the “fortress” in the first place? Maybe it’s some sort of a joke that I just don’t get?

    Of course, maybe the film’s title can be explained if we look at it from the enemy’s point of view. They are looking for three men who escaped from the hidden fortress together with the gold and the princess — the princess being just about as human to them as the gold. Hence, three villains of the hidden fortress.

    I wonder though if the third villain might actually be the princess, rather than Mifune’s Rokurota. Rokurota is trying to take the group to safety, but the three others are a constant problem for this goal.

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    Ugetsu

    Vili:

    It’s an interesting point that she seems to be totally overlooked by Kurosawa criticism.

    Well then, I think we should fill the void!

    vili:

    Something that I have often pondered about is whether we (especially the male part of the audience) should see her as sexually stimulating. Are her bare legs displayed to us for that reason? Would I be more concerned about her survival if she had been played for instance by a young Jennifer Aniston, who I’m sure would have been able to be just as one-dimensional and annoying, but who I would have been far happier to stare at for two hours, especially if bare-legged? It’s not that Uehara is bad looking, but for some reason (maybe it’s the baggy pants?) she does absolutely nothing to me.

    I gotta agree here, although I also have to say I didn’t understand why everyone thought Michiko Kyo was a sex bomb after looking at Rashomon – it wasn’t until I saw her in one or two other films that I realised just how sexy she is – I guess there is quite a cultural divide there (confession: as a 10 year old I had a huge crush on Princess Leia).

    I think to come to any conclusions to this it would be necessary to see if the character was modelled on a chambara ‘type’. She certainly seems unique from my knowledge of film at the time, but of course the only films most of us have seen from then are the high quality ones that are still available – I assume the run of the mill chambara would have been very different. Although i suspect maybe that Kurosawa was thinking more of the type of stroppy strong female character you would find in Hollywood swashbucklers. But presumably, since the film was a huge success the contemporary audience weren’t put off by her character, although it may be significant that she doesn’t seem to have been asked to do anything significant aftwards. Would I be right in saying that the disposable teen starlet that seems such a part of modern Japanese culture wasn’t the norm at the time? Its possible of course that just like Kurosawa’s own wife, she just married some rich guy and retired.

    But I do think the character is significant – I think she is quite a distinct foil to the others who, without exception, follow the feudal norms (although i suppose arguably the warrior who freed them in the end and left his own Lord was also doing so). Is it stretching things to see her character as consistent with so many others in Kurosawa’s films who find a way out of lifes paradox by maintaining an un-Japanese like personal autonomy and independence? If so, then I see no reason not to see her as one of a consistent line of Kurosawa heros as played by Mifune, Hara and Shimura. She is just overlooked because of the lighthearted nature of the film and an unsubtle performance.

    Vili:

    The film title has puzzled me, too. The original Japanese 隠し砦の三悪人 pretty much translates as “Hidden fortress’s three villains”.

    I guess here we need a native speaker. I wonder if the word akunin is closer to ‘rogue’ than villain – i.e. it has a less harmful, more lovable connotation in ordinary usage. Otherwise, I’m completely stumpted as to what it means – after all, at no time that I can thing of is there just three people in the Fortress. Perhaps it is meant deliberately to get the audience to question the motivations of the character by having them wonder who villain number 3 is?

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    lawless

    In response to Vili – while I found her costume to be unsettling, it was because it was, as far as I know, completely unprecedented and inappropriate for the period. My reaction (colored, I’m sure, by the fact that I’m a woman, but perhaps helpful nevertheless) was that it was meant to show that she was a bit of a tomboy and free of the shackles of society at the time and class structure. Think bloomers, only with more skin showing. She wouldn’t have been able to leap about so freely, if at all, if she’d been wearing more conventioinal attire. I didn’t get any sense she was supposed to look enticing.

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    Barcik

    The film title has puzzled me, too. The original Japanese 隠し砦の三悪人 pretty much translates as “Hidden fortress’s three villains”.

    In my opinion, why the title is like that is because, throughout the movie, Matashichi, Tahei and Rokurota are carrying the gold to one destination, and they will split that gold after reaching that place. This is their (at least in the minds of Matashichi and Tahei) role almost until the end of the movie. So they’re somewhat of a “Bad Guys/Akunin”. All three of them. And they planned this at the Hidden Fortress, hence the title.

    This was my perception of the title.

    As for the Princess, I didn’t find her acting to be bad, or her speaking tone loud. The characterization felt quiet natural to me actually. She was raised like a boy, and higher class samurais and lords of that time talk like that (in most of the japanese samurai films and jidaigeki’s ‘ve seen so far).

    Well, just wanted to say what I felt after viewing the movie. Apologies for the not very good english.

    Cheers

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    cocoskyavitch

    Vili, I think that Uehara was the Jennifer Anniston of her time, as far as Kurosawa was concerned. And though lawless…”

    didn’t get any sense she was supposed to look enticing. “

    I think she was supposed to be both unconventional, tomboy-ish and sexy all at once. I can’t scrounge up any comparisons, but somewhere in the back of my head is Hillary Swank, although I may have conflated her Oscar night presence with The Karate Kid thing. Hey, come to think of it, despite the confession of Ugetsu of having a crush on Princess Leia…actually I think of both Princess characters as very, very similar-and even the acting equivalent! It may be that Ugetsu’s confession is a clue as to how the Fortress Princess was supposed to be appreciated.

    Welcome Barcik, and thanks for your perceptions. I found the actress less objectionable than some, and your thoughts help:

    “She was raised like a boy, and higher class samurais and lords of that time talk like that.”

    Makes sense to me! I think, as an audience, we are first supposed to dislike her, then to embrace her (and her humanity). Ugetsu‘s made a really brilliant observation:

    “…she is actually the central character of the film, the moral heart.”

    I cannot help but think that Ugetsu has a really brilliant insight here! Not only does criticism overlook or disdain the Princess as actress, it overlooks her value to the moral dimension of the story.

    If the Princess is the moral heart, then unresoved is Kurosawa’s relationship to feudalism-(those ideals that made Rokurota sacrifice his own sister’s life-are also the ideals and code that save the Princess and a people). In the concluding scene, Feudal roles and duties are what brings back harmony and order. I can’t figure out where Kurosawa is, in his attitudes there, and it seems conflicted/confusing. But, let’s face it-those bad boys Matashichi and Tahei don’t reform until the pomp and circumstance of a viewing of the Princess and Rokurota smack some sense into them (and even then, the Princess has to advise them to share!).

    Here’s what I think: I think The Hidden Fortress is, in part, a “screwball comedy” in the vein of “Bringing Up Baby” or the “Philadelphia Story”. There’s a romantic element and a mistaken identity element ( The Princess in disguise, and of course! Rokaruta and the Princess have a certain dynamic! Don’t tell me it didn’t cross your mind at one point that the two might end up together?) And our characters Matashichi and Tahei are the color: loveable, funny idiots who show us their bad sides first and most prominently, and who then show us they really aren’t BAD guys-at least not THAT bad.

    And I think the “screwball comedy” gets mixed up with a jidaigeki “Quest/Adventure” film. So, in turns, it is funny and serious and exciting. What a fantastic recipe! No wonder Lucas and Spielberg sipped at Kurosawa’s fountain of creativity! It’s delicious!

    I personally LOVE this film: the much-commented on bloomers/shorts allow us a glimpse of some great-looking legs (Men, you are supposed to admire the Princess’ legs…and for lawless and I….Mifune’s thighs…yowza!) and we go through sun and shade and danger and pain and thirst…through cool nights and hot noon suns and even dancing around a bonfire.

    I can really feel and understand the thrill when the gold is found inside the sticks by Matashichi and Tahei. I “get” the feeling of the water and the wood and the dull gold, and the night. I am dry with dusty throat when Rokurota takes our bumbling friends the hard way up the gravel hill to the fortress, when they dig a big trench. I feel the cold water in the hidden spring, and the dampness in the cave. I smell the odors of an inn in the town and the rough clients. Perhaps most of all I get the feeling of speed when Mifune rides the horse. You know the scene: Mifune on horseback, galloping after two men from the enemy fortress, his blade raised and held steady. I have stop-actioned that again and again, because it is an absolutely stunningly beautiful image-the still head and torso of Mifune as the background races into a blur-!

    For me, it is entertainment par excellence!

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    lawless

    *laughs* You’re probably right, Coco, about the Princess being unconventional, tomboy-ish and enticing all at once, and the Hilary Swank analogy makes sense to me. It’s just that her outfit doesn’t signal that to me in the context of Warring States period Japan. In fact, I find myself in agreement with you on just about everything you’ve written here in terms of analysis but not your estimation of the movie.

    I agree, it’s meant to be a combination of a screwball comedy and jidaigeki adventure/quest, but for me the elements don’t mesh completely. There are some great scenes – the scenes on the steps, the fiight, some of the business with the thieves – but it’s uneven. It sags a little in places for me and I find the fire festival full of wince-worthy pure corn.

    In fact, in my case I decidedly prefer The Lower Depths to The Hidden Fortress, although I still prefer The Hidden Fortress to Rashomon. In fact, of all the Kurosawa films I’ve seen (mostly the ones from the 50s (other than The Idiot) plus Stray Dog, Drunken Angel, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and Ran, Hidden Fortress is my next to least favorite ahead of Rashomon.

    I find the Princess’ performance more powerful (and tolerable) once they’re underway and she can no longer play the Princess.

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    Vili Maunula

    Ugetsu: I think to come to any conclusions to this it would be necessary to see if the character was modelled on a chambara ‘type’. She certainly seems unique from my knowledge of film at the time, but of course the only films most of us have seen from then are the high quality ones that are still available – I assume the run of the mill chambara would have been very different.

    This activated something somewhere in my brain, and it kept nagging me until I scanned through the literature again. The following is most probably what was activated in my memory cortex. It comes from Vernon Young’s essay “The Hidden Fortress: Kurosawa’s Comic Mode”:

    A cliché is reborn as a perennial mode when vitality confounds a formula. The impassive samurai or loyal retainer unmoved by the sex appeal of the bare-legged (here) Princess he is defending, is a staple of the Japanese period-film. As such, Kurosawa makes no attempt to disguise it. He intensifies it. (from Goodwin’s Perspectives on Akira Kurosawa, p.155)

    It would therefore seem that Kurosawa was playing here with a chambara convention of the sexy female object.

    Ugetsu: I guess here we need a native speaker. I wonder if the word akunin is closer to ‘rogue’ than villain

    A native speaker would indeed help here. All I can say is that my dictionaries give the definitions “villain” and “bad man”. And when written with kanji, the first character in 悪人 (akunin) has the meaning “evil” or “wicked”, “bad”, “inferior” (the second one stands for “human being”). So if I would have to guess as a non-native speaker, I would say that “villain” is closer than “rogue”.

    I must say that Barcik‘s interpretation of the title makes quite a bit of sense. (Welcome to the group, by the way!)

    Coco and lawless are right that this is a mixture of a screwball, adventure and samurai genres. I would say that it is also a road movie (of the “return home” type).

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    lawless

    Just wanted to add, which I forgot to include before, that the Princess’ having been brought up like a boy does seem to have a lot of bearing on her behavior and how she holds herself.

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    cocoskyavitch

    I probably mention this pretty often-and it applies here too, so here it is again in The Hidden Fortress-there is a strange phenomenon for me on first viewing a Kurosawa film- I don’t always recognize the players-they seem so very different in each role. I know it must be very silly to say this-but I wasn’t sure that Mifune was Mifune, nor that Kamatari Fujiwara was himself (and, as we’ve just talked about The Lower Depths last month-I have to remind everyone of the incredible range of this actor-one, according to Kurosawa who had trouble remembering his lines!)

    This made Mifune’s presence especially tricky-I wasn’t sure if he were a rogue or not! I think the villains of the film are the two bumblers and Mifune’s character-I just think the title is meant comically.

    lawless, we both have a similar take on the Princess and what she is supposed to be. Joel Bocko of the Boston Indie Movie Examiner says she is,

    “hardly a passive damsel in distress, is a spunky and crafty heroine, a spitfire through and through.””

    “…and even sexy (despite her tomboy getup, or perhaps because of her assertiveness and defensive skill, Nuri is irresistably enticing – one of the great heroines of adventure genre history”.

    Wow. he really likes her!

    So, anyway, perhaps that contradicts some of the folks who find her a bad actress, or harsh and shrill.

    lawless, I wish you liked this film. I like it so very much! But, what do others say?

    Armond White on Criterion’s site has this:

    “The adventure film concept is philosophically, spectacularly rendered. When Rokurota’s band attend a bonfire, they join an existential chant: “Ponder and you’ll see the world is dark/ And this floating world is a dream/ Burn with abandon.” This scene’s startling visual contrasts of glistering black and white vivifies the song’s meaning. The clarity and vibrance of Ichio Yamazaki’s cinematography makes The Hidden Fortress a special pleasure; nighttime sequences are deep and velvety with images highlighted in gray sheen or shimmering whiteness.”

    That bonfire scene was anything but cheesy for me.

    I found White’s thoughts after writing the earlier post about how exciting and sensual this film is for me, (or else I would have written more eloquently!) and, it was reassuring that at least one critic appreciated the sensual nature of the imagery!.

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    lawless

    Coco, I’d say I like Hidden Fortress, I just don’t love it the way I do most other Kurosawa films I’ve seen. As I said, it strikes me as uneven – also a little overlong – which may have something to do with its spanning so many genres. Though that begs the question: since I love, nay, adore Seven Samurai, which also spans some genres (for me; from the Japanese perspective at the time it was released, I don’t think it does). I think the difference is because not only is Seven Samurai more focused, it has more of an underlying message or viewpoint than Hidden Fortress, which is more of just a blockbuster type movie, if you can even say that about a Kurosawa film.

    Then again, I prefer uneven blockbusters to arty films that strike me as a little too precious and uninvolving *cough cough* Rashomon anyone?

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    cocoskyavitch

    lawless, what would you say are Kuroswa’s main film types, beyond the gendai-geki and jidai-geki categories? Would you say that Kurosawa has some social/moral message films, some “pure entertainment” films, and some “too didactic films” (might you put Rashomon in that last catergory>)?

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    lawless

    Coco, I recognize the reference to jidai-geki, but not gendai-geki. Would those be films set contemporaneously with the film’s production?

    I guess I think, that while he strives to entertain with every film, Hidden Fortress was his only attempt at a film that was more of what we would now consider a “blockbuster” popcorn type of heroic entertainment movie, a la (horrors for mentioning it) Star Wars. Yojimbo and Sanjuro – but especiailly Yojimbo – are highly entertaining but depict a more nuanced sort of protagonist who is deeper, sneakier, more cynical and more conniving – and in many ways more effective because of it – than the typical hero. Then again, those movies also depict a more corrupt world than Hidden Fortress as well.

    I’d put Seven Samurai, Kagemusha, and Ran in the same class even though they are quite different in tone because they’re all period pieces that are epic in scope and concerned, at least in part, with governance and social relations. (Keep in mind I haven’t seen Kagemusha; I’ve only read about it.) I wouldn’t include Throne of Blood because it’s not epic in scope.

    I’d put his contemporary films – Drunken Angel, Stray Dog, Ikiru, Red Beard, High and Low, The Bad Sleep Well (once again, I haven’t seen all of them), possibly Rhapsody in August and even Maddadayo – into another category, though once again there are differences in tone. Stray Dog and Drunken Angel, for example, have significant noir elements, though I wouldn’t say either is noir through and through.

    I’d pair The Lower Depths and Dokesudaken (is Dokesudaken set in contemporaory Japan or is it historical?) and probably treat the remaining adaptations, The Idiot and Throne of Blood, as well as Derzu Ursala and Rashomon, which I don’t like for its coldness and complete subversion of any objective truth (if I can’t tell what really went on, why should I care about the story?) and an artiness that strikes me as a little precious, as sui generis. I don’t know enough about his earlier films to comment on them, though I think they’d fall into categories similarly.

    As for didactic films, they can come in any genre. Some of his most successful film are didactic – I’m thinking of Seven Samurai and especially Ikiru – and of his least are as well, which is my take on The Bad Sleep Well based on the discussion of it. It’s how he conveys the didacticism that matters. Almost every Kurosawa film, if not every one, has some social or moral message in there somewhere. That’s part of what makes him so great, in my book.

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    NoelCT

    I’m taking the side of those who like the Princess. I think her performance clashing and standing out is justified by all the other characters jabbering on about how much she clashes and stands out. And I definitely find her more compelling than the young noble from THE MEN WHO TREAD ON THE TIGER’S TAIL, which I consider HIDDEN FORTRESS to be a loose remake of.

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    Ugetsu

    To pull the conversation back to the Princess – or to be specific, her eyebrows: I was wondering about her relative lack of facial expression in the film and whether this was deliberate or just a reflection of her lack of subtlety as an actress. It occurred to me that maybe she was instructed to follow a Noh archetype, as we know AK instructed his actresses in other historic films. A google through Noh masks didn’t reveal anything even vaguely like that permanently annoyed expression on Uehara’s face. But one thing did strike me – all the female Noh masks have those high eyebrows, with the brows following the curve of the upper eyesocket (i.e slanting upward to the middle), while male mask tend to be the opposite – the same angle as those striking eyebrows the Princess sports. Is there a significance to this? Is it an indication of her tomboy tendencies?

    And following that digression, another….

    From memory, there are three key moments for the Princess where she exposes her true character.

    First, her expression of anger at the General for being so heartless about his sister. She is of course right to be angry about a system that forces a man like the General to sacrifice his little sister for someone else, but we also know that she is being too cruel (I think the scene where Mifune hesitates slightly after hearing the news is brilliantly done – showing just how subtle an actor he could be under all the charisma). The General is deeply upset at his loss, he just refuses to show it.

    The second occasion where the Princess shows her good side is in her freeing of the slave girl. But she does it in such an imperious and arrogant fashion that we lose all sympathy for her – it seems an act of patrician condescension rather than real sympathy.

    The third time is on the night of her capture, where she sings the song she learned at the fire festival, showing courageous defiance in the face of death.

    So I think there is a clear moral progression here – she does grow as a character – she is consistent in her rejection of traditional roles, but grows more introspective as the film goes on and less arrogant. I do think, therefore, that it was an intention of the script to show us this progression more clearly. But whether through an unsubtle performance, the pace of the film, or possibly poor subtitling and our cultural distance, it doesn’t quite come off on the screen (at least for us, perhaps it did for the contemporary audience).

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    Vili Maunula

    I don’t really have anything to add to Ugetsu’s post above, other than saying that it is an interesting idea that the film would intend the princess to learn and change as the story progresses. This would certainly fit the genre(s), yet like you I have difficulty actually seeing it.

    As for the Noh masks, I don’t remember any reference to them in the literature discussing the film, but considering how big a part Noh seemed to be of Kurosawa’s life and artistic sensibilities, I could well accept that the eyebrows may have been influenced by Noh masks, if only subconsciously.

    Noel’s idea of The Hidden Fortress as a kind of a remake of The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail is certainly something that could be explored further, either now or next year when we watch the latter film.

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    cocoskyavitch

    CRAZY Eyebrows, by George! I think Ugetsu‘s got one of the sources of discomfort for those who don’t feel much moved by the Princess! Those brows are reminiscent of the eyebrows that Guido has his mistress paint on herself when they are playing bedroom games in Fellini’s 8 1/2, and they are like Spock’s olr the Betty Page mashup here . Perhaps the latter is the kind of look Kurosawa was going for. I cannot imagine any other reason why he would cross gender boundaries referencing such iconic images as Noh mask conventions. Or else, I can imagine but prefer not to reference subtexts of homoerotica in Kurosawa’s work. (although now, by typing that last sentence, I suppose I have…!)

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    NoelCT

    Noel’s idea of The Hidden Fortress as a kind of a remake of The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail is certainly something that could be explored further, either now or next year when we watch the latter film.

    I’ll make sure to bring it up again when we get there.

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    Vili Maunula

    I was going through Stephen Prince’s short notes to each film in Criterion’s new AK100 box set, and he suggests that the title Three Bad Men in a Hidden Fortress is “a wink to John Ford, whose silent Three Bad Men (1926) was a Kurosawa favorite”. Has anyone here seen this film? The IMDb summary suggests that at least the primary cast of three men and a girl seem present in both films.

    I wonder if the connection goes deeper, and whether the film has more nods to Kurosawa’s own favourites — the staircase scene is obviously a reference to Eisenstein, but I didn’t know about the connection with Ford. Maybe there is more?

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    Ugetsu

    I wonder if the connection goes deeper, and whether the film has more nods to Kurosawa’s own favourites — the staircase scene is obviously a reference to Eisenstein, but I didn’t know about the connection with Ford. Maybe there is more?

    Check out Princess Kukachin’s eyebrows in another John Ford movie – a bit of a tenuous reference I know, but they do look similar!

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    Vili Maunula

    Indeed! 😆

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    Fred

    “Hidden Fortress” is great entertainment indeed. The scene at the border is one of my favorites (yes, there is a certain resemblance to “The men who stepped on the tiger’s tail”). I fully agree with Ugetsu that Princess Yuki shows tremendous spiritual growth, especially after the transformation she appears to go through at and after the fire festival. Her change and the way Tahei and Matashichi appear to have turned away from utter greed lend a different dimension to this movie.

    There is just one particular item I would like to add: If I remember correctly (forgot the source), AK picked Ms Uehara because of her shrill voice. OK, so we are glad when she finally starts playing a mute…

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    Ugetsu

    Fred

    There is just one particular item I would like to add: If I remember correctly (forgot the source), AK picked Ms Uehara because of her shrill voice. OK, so we are glad when she finally starts playing a mute…

    As a Christmas present, I was given a really good pair of headphones which means I can watch my movies at the highest volume I want – I just watched Hidden Fortress again and yes, I can confirm that her voice is particularly shrill! I hadn’t really noticed it before, but the emphasis the film puts on how everyone would know she was a princess when they heard her voice makes sense in this context (I just assumed previously it was a reference to her aristocratic way of speaking).

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    Greasy Rat

    Her voice was all too shrill, but I admired Yuki as a character, her strength, her dignity, the way she carried herself.

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