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Hidden Fortress Question

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    I have come very late in life to the films of Akira Kurosawa.

    Just saw my fourth one – The Hidden Fortress.

    I came away with a question.

    What did Rokurota give Tahei and Matakishi right at the very end, the last scene?

    You couldn’t really see it.

    Maybe it was something from earlier in the film that I was supposed to remember and just didn’t.

    But it’s buggin’ me.

    Hoping someone could tell me.





    Unless my memory fails me, it is a piece of gold (or something similarly valuable), although not from the treasure that was carried. I could be mistaken, but I don’t think that the object itself has any specific meaning or reference.

    Which are the other three films that you have seen so far, JamesD, and what did you think about them?




    In order, I have seen

    – Throne of Blood

    – Magnificent Seven

    – Ikiru

    – Hidden Fortress

    Throne of Blood just “happened” to me, in some sort of semi-mystical way.

    I was sort of sick with something, not feeling very good.

    I had recorded Throne of Blood off of TCM.

    It was one of those days you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    So I decided to watch this movie.

    My wife wasn’t home.

    It was a cold, gray, mid-winter afternoon.

    So, the weather/atmosphere was stark black and white atmospheric.

    And here comes this black and white very atmospheric movie.

    With this sorta trance inducing music.

    And I was sort of light headed anyway.

    And…it just turned out to be this near transcendental experience.

    I still don’t know how good the movie really was.

    What I would have thought of it if I had caught it on a summer day with a beer?

    But it sure “worked” for me that cold gray winter’s day!

    Magnificent Seven was, well, exactly what everybody recognizes the movie to be. I liked it a lot.

    Ikiru just absolutely blew me away.

    Partly on a personal level, which is…well…personal and hard to explain.

    But also, it just seemed to have such a clear and powerful fingerprint of the director on it.

    Like… the scene where Watanabe and Toyo are at the table in the club (the Hopping Rabbit scene) and he is pressing her for the meaning of life (“what is it you have?”) and all the time IT is going on in the background space on the other side of the stairwell where the birthday party is going on. Just a terrific scene.

    And just scene, after scene, after scene, after scene…I just thought the whole movie was extraordinary.

    Hidden Fortress… I don’t want to say that I “liked it the least”.

    But just liked the others more.

    I thought it was really! good.

    It just had the misfortune of following three others that clicked in at some special level for me, especially it had the misfortune of following Ikiru!

    There you go.

    Best regards,


    P.S. Re: the end of Hidden fortress, I just didn’t get the feeling that it was just a piece of gold or just “anything.”

    Looked like an oval (?) disc (?) with some writing (?) on it.

    To me anyway.

    Maybe it was, as you said, nothing in particular

    But it seemed to me like it was “something.”

    Maybe someone else will know about this and let us know.



    The movies you’ve seen thus far, are certainly great, but you’ve only skimmed the surface, you might want to venture towards Rashomon, Drunken Angel, and Red Beard, as those to me follow closely to what might of “blew me away” with Ikiru, and are to me among the better of films, not to suggest there is a bad one.

    I’m not a fan of Hidden Fortress myself really, nothing bad to say, but it too never “clicked” with me.

    I assume a typo, since it hard to confuse the actual movie. But then often TCM will show Magnificent Seven, but the host will talk extensively about Kurosawa, one could get crossed up if unaware.

    So, was it really Magnificent Seven that you watched or Seven Samurai?

    Magnificent Seven is with cowboys, and American actors, a remake of the Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Similar, but totally different.



    << “I assume a typo…” >>



    And I rage at poor scholarship almost every day!

    Yes, a typo.

    Why won’t this forum let me edit my post, so my poor scholarship won’t live for eternity!!!

    My fingers were just typing faster than my brain was thinking.

    I meant the Seven Samurai, of course.

    << “The movies you’ve seen thus far, are certainly great,

    << but you’ve only skimmed the surface,

    << you might want to venture towards Rashomon,

    << Drunken Angel, and Red Beard,

    << as those to me follow closely to what might of “blew me away” with Ikiru,

    << and are to me among the better of films”

    I currently have a few Kurosawa movies on my DVR that I recorded from TCM’s Kurosawa tribute recently. I didn’t have enough room on my DVR to record all of them, so sort of had to pick and choose. These are the ones that I selected and have recorded to watch :

    – Sanshiro Sugata (I just wanted to see what he did right at the beginning.)

    – Sanshiro Sugata 2

    – The Drunken Angel

    – Stray Dog

    – Rashomon

    – Yojimbo

    – Sanjuro

    – I Live in Fear

    So… I got two of the three you recommended for me!

    Just not Red Beard.

    And there’s something I’ve picked up in the wind that maybe Dersu Uzala might be one I would like to watch.

    (…and I saw about five minutes from the middle of The Idiot before I made myself turn it off; it looked great!)

    I am sort of holding my breath though for the first color Kurosawa movie I see.

    I love b&w.

    b&w photography.

    b&w movies.

    And the four Kurosawa movies I have seen so far have all been in b&w.

    So, as I said, I’m holding my breath.

    What do you guys who know all of this director’s work think?

    Do we love them all equally?

    Or do we think the early ones, the b&w ones, are “better”.

    Reminds me of the running joke through Stardust Memories (?) about Woody Allen – “I really like your movies, especially the early ones, you know, the funny ones.”

    [ edit: although I just went and tried to do some quick research…there’s not a ton of Kurosawa movies IN color are there? the great majority are in b&w, yea! ]

    Best regards,


    P.S. Oh, I see. Maybe. I just edited THIS post but I can’t edit my earlier ones. There’s a time limit, maybe, before it “sets”?



    There is indeed a time limit of about one hour during which you can edit posts. Mistakes are part of the fun, and we wouldn’t learn without them. 😉

    You are not alone in finding The Hidden Fortress a somewhat lesser film than the others, in fact I would say that this is the consensus among viewers familiar with Kurosawa’s body of work. Yet, as the film worked as a strong inspiration to Star Wars, it has been seen by a lot of people, and therefore also gets to be talked about quite a bit. Which is good in a way, but unfortunate because it’s one of those Kurosawa movies that in the end doesn’t have all that much to talk about.

    I think that the object at the end of The Hidden Fortress was indeed an oval shaped disc, which I think is a type of currency that was used in some parts of Japan at some point. There are a few examples here. In any case, I think (but could be wrong) that the object itself is fairly unimportant, and what is important is the fact that only one is given, and that the peasants need to learn to share it.

    You have a good collection of films there to start with. Anything apart perhaps for the Sanshiro Sugata films are classic. Actually, if you are interested in watching the Sanshiro Sugata films with us, our (currently somewhat quiet) film club will discuss the films in May and July.

    Kurosawa trained as a painter before he became a film director, but moved to use colour only relatively late in his career, as he felt that colour film quality was for a long time too poor to accomplish what he had in mind. However, once he did take up colour (from the 1970 film Dodesukaden onwards — which means that 7 out of 30 are in colour), he did so with a very personal and painterly style. Especially films like the said Dodesukaden, the 1980s epics Kagemusha and Ran, and the somewhat experimental 1990 film Dreams, are absolutely jam-packed with colours.

    I wouldn’t be able to say whether Kurosawa’s black and white films or his colour films are better. They are, however, certainly very different, although this perhaps has less to do with colour itself. You see, Kurosawa’s switch to colour coincides with the beginning of two things. One is an artistically far more difficult place from which to make films, as he suddenly faced huge difficulties finding funding. From 1970 until his death in 1998, Kurosawa was able to make only 7 films. In the 27 years before 1970, he had made 23.

    Secondly, Red Beard, which is the last black and white film, was in some ways an end to a long series of films that had, pretty much from the beginning of Kurosawa’s career, fundamentally asked the same questions, approaching them from different angles. Red Beard, in a sense, found closure to those questions, but only to raise new ones, which Kurosawa then went on to investigate in the remaining films, which due to the subject matter also tend to have much darker tones to them.



    OK, I have gone back and watched the ending of The Hidden Fortress and think you (pl) are right that the bestowed gift is nonspecific, with its plot significance lying ini its singularity.

    Thanks for your invitation to discuss Sanshiro Sugata in May, but mainly thanks for the live link to film club, a resource I had not yet discovered. I followed the link, read about the film club, and saw where y’all have been at this for almost two years! …And your discussions of the prior seen films are saved! For ME! After I see each of these films (for the first time… can y’all even remember when you had not seen these films, and were seeing them for the first time?) I will really enjoy reading y’alls discussion of each one.

    By the way, when I was posting my little list of the films I had recorded to watch, I was thinking that the TCM Kurosawa festival was over. Didn’t realize that there is one Tuesday yet left in March. I may have to delete some other stuff off my DVR to make room, but I can still record Dersu Uzala, Kagemusha and Ran. That will get me a pretty good core of Kurosawa’s films! Fifteen or so I think. (Why didn’t I get Red Beard when it went by?!?!?)

    Thanks, everyone, for your hospitality to this oldnewcomer.


    P.S. I thought about asking you what were the “same questions” that Kurosawa asked from the beginning of his career that found closure in Red Beard. But I think I shan’t. Watch the films first, at least, and see. 🙂



    I personally consider Akahige (Red Beard) to be the greatest film in the history of cinema. I think it’s Kurosawa’s most profound portrait of the world, the social structures and conditions which inhabit it and, most importantly, the human condition. It’s a film I can always return to, despite its length. The performances are wonderful, as ever in a Kurosawa film, and the cast is superb. Seeing Kinuyo Tanaka and Chishu Ryu in a Kurosawa film is always an instant welcome. And there are a wonderful range of scenes in it, from the tenderness of the doctor attempting to spoon feed a traumatised young girl, to the hilarious and brutal fight scene.

    I perhaps tend to rewatch the contemporary dramas, or gendaigeki, the most such as Stray Dog (which has always been my favourite Kurosawa…I think) and High and Low; both of which are fine films that warrant many a repeated viewing and analysis.

    On a side note, I personally think Kurosawa’s colour films are definitely the weakest, which is a great shame considering I love 90% of his black and white filmography.



    I as well prefer B&W over color, to me it’s more the expressive tonal for cinema.

    I agree with Vili, Kurosawa’s color films are simply different, and I too couldn’t claim them better or lesser then his black and whites, but then again, they don’t really come to mind when I think Kurosawa. Kurosawa’s color films are done very effectively, and at that point in his career and subject matter tackled, they I think would be less effective in black and white, as films such Dodesukaden and Ran seem foundational support by the colors, still, they are, well, different.

    Of the films you recorded, Stray Dog, Rashomon, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro are must watch, the rest I wouldn’t sweat missing them at this point. Kagemusha and Ran are in color, and among the best of Kurosawa, I would suggest getting those over the others, if you need to delete to make room. From that point, you pretty much covered what I consider the essential Kurosawa’s, but if you find them all great, you would be shame to miss the others. Kurosawa’s lesser films near the start of his career, are often forgotten, but The Most Beautiful, No Regrets For Our Youth and One Wonderful Sunday, are fantastic, and hold a more relaxing viewing style, oppose to the more epic dramas of his widely known films.



    Jeremy: You found The Most Beautiful to be fantastic? Damn I thought it was awful! I mean well and truly awful. Even for a propaganda film. I’m curious as to why you like it as much as you do. And I too like No Regrets For Our Youth and One Wonderful Sunday, but I don’t find them to be fantastic. Having said that, I think One Wonderful Sunday is an incredibly underrated and overlooked film, and it certainly has its moments.




    Thanks for your comments about b&w vs. color, comment about the “early” films, etc.

    Btw, re: your comment…

    [ Kagemusha and Ran are in color, and among the best of Kurosawa,

    [ I would suggest getting those over the others,

    [ if you need to delete to make room.

    …I was just talking about “thinning out” my DVR in general, deleting different “stuff” I can do without, not deleting any of the Kurosawa films I’ve just recorded. I’ll be able to keep them all, which I think will be about fifteen (of the, more or less, “better” ones, if you can say that). Don’t know how long it will take me to work my way through them. I really don’t want to “cram” them down. I’ll probably take several months to ease through them, but I’m looking forward to this journey. (This feels sort of like when I worked my way through the 15 Shostokovitch string quartets. 🙂 )




    I got to stand with No Regrets For Our Youth, and One Wonderful Sunday, when compared to later Kurosawa they hold small value, but step a bit away from late Kurosawa exceptions, and along side of that of a new director’s trial and errors in directing, these films are among the better, perhaps the best of any major director’s early works. One Wonderful Sunday, still remains one of my favorite Kurosawa’s, for one I like the story, and a realist view of post-war Japan’s effect on normal people, done in a some what non-typical Japanese way(more Italian). On this I can see the roughness of Kurosawa start here, along with the natural tendency to copy from great directors before him in areas of uncertainly. From the two mention films, you can follow evidence of smoothing out some rough ideas, and keeping and doing away with ideas from other directors, to the point where you can get to Stray Dog, as a nearly pure Kurosawa. They basically offer the pre-mastered Kurosawa.

    I’ll grant you The Most Beautiful is a bad film, but it was never a film intended to last the ages or to be held to modern view. It is indeed a propaganda film, short lived, and aimed for a specific target. Among the Japanese propaganda films, hands down the best delivery of a distorted message. The title gives a wrong imagine in English, as the film is more about having the most prefect(beautiful in Imperial Japanese sense) mindset. Promotion that the ideal Japanese, and what all Japanese should push to be, is a worker, that pushes themselves to the brink, not by force of the factory owners, but by the undying love and unquestioning loyalty to Imperial Japan. They are to live solely to work for the company/country, nothing else-not exactly too far from modern Japan work in placed demands by the way.

    While a typical demanding Japanese propaganda film, it’s closer to the non-threatening nature of American, and British propaganda films, not so much, “do this”, “hate that”, but “look at these great people working to save the country”.

    I will however say, including The Most Beautiful was an accidental slip, and for all practical Kurosawa purposes, the film should be skipped and indeed is ultimately a bad movie. .



    I’m with Ryan on his estimation of Akahige/Red Beard. The film crafts an ever-moving and rebalancing tension between realism and romanticism, despair and hope. Sometimes, at the end, I think of the young doctor and the life he has chosen and wonder if he can make it. After all, Kurosaw couldn’t hold that point of balance, himself, in life or in film.

    It is unique-with some moments of chilling beauty and horror and despair and clarity and light. It’s really Kurosawa’s master statement.



    JamesD: I can only envy you, preparing to encounter most of AK’s greatest films for the very first time.

    My take on some of the movies about which others have expressed their opinions on this thread:

    – The Hidden Fortress – Love it! It’s intended to be a Saturday matinee adventure movie and should be viewed in that spirit. AK was trying three things with this film: 1. to make money for Toho; 2. to give the audience some fun; 3. to have fun himself making it. He succeeded brilliantly with all three. (I think I read it was the biggest box office success, in his native land, of his entire career.) Favorite scenes: Mifune’s scream as he charges the enemy on horseback; the Susumu Fujita character apologizing for defecting; the Misa Uehara character (who is supposed to be mute), in the heat of battle, bidding farewell to the two peasants, each of whom thinks the other has just said goodbye to him.

    – Red Beard – Impressive movie, but not, I think, his very greatest. Quite long and a bit static at times.

    – Stray Dog – Great detective movie, by any standard.

    – The Most Beautiful – Okay, it’s not great, but awful? I wouldn’t say so — though to be honest I’ve only seen it once. To me, the two weakest movies he every made were Sanshiro Sugata Two (not the original, which is excellent) and Rhapsody in August.



    Aw, dylanexpert, not feeling Red Beard?

    Hidden Fortress-Love! Fave single image: Mifune on horseback, madly galloping after the two soldiers, sword raised, still in the saddle as the world rushes by…! Could not be more fun.

    Red Beard-Love! Masterwork. As I said earlier, a film of contrasts, and courage, and wisdom. I don’t know of any other film where Kurosawa looks so nakedly into the mind of the insane, the damaged. There are stories within the story of such searing despair-things so painful to see, that I find tis film one of the most difficult to watch, but unforgettable. I’m with Ryan in thinking that this film is amazing.

    Stray Dog -Love! Powerful, clean, fascinating!



    Ah, I love it when people can’t agree on their favourite!

    For me, Hidden Fortress is my least favorite of his ‘big’ films. I enjoy it, but I think maybe its a film that should be seen on the big screen in a crowded cinema.

    Red Beard is one that I keep changing my mind about. I love its scale, its passion and the imagery. I think there are half a dozen scenes in it that are amongst the finest in all cinema – the earthquake, the lovers meeting on the bridge, the fight outside the brothel, the well scene.. just amazing. But there is another part of me that finds it all a little overblown, cinematic effect over content. I think its maybe significant that, a little like Dersu Uzala, while the visuals are astonishing, we didn’t have a great deal to say about its meaning. It is maybe a little too simple a story to carry all that cinematic glory. It is, in short, a David Lean film.

    Stray Dog for me is a straight up masterpiece, as lean, mean and perfect as the Maltese Falcon or The Third Man.



    dylanexpert, cocoskyavitch and Ugetsu,

    Thanks for writing.

    Can’t respond to y’all about Stray Dog and Red Beard because I haven’t seen them yet.

    (although Stray Dog is next on my list, I’m watching them chronologically

    (i.e., watching the ones I HAVE in chronological order

    (just finished Drunken Angel and Stray Dog is the next one I have after that

    About Hidden Fortress…I too loved the scene of Mifune charging on horseback.

    It was the pose, sword aloft and back, ready to strike, all the time he was coming.

    I kept thinking about the horsemanship.

    No hands, controlling the mount with your legs.

    And I’m not a horseman but I assume great horsemen can do such as this.

    Regardless it was a great image.

    As I said, I have just finished watching Drunken Angel.

    And have some questions/comments.

    Start a new thread for those?

    I think so.

    See y’all there.


    P.S. dylanexpert – yes I am pretty “aware” of what I am doing. You can only do something for the first time once. So I’m trying to really appreciate the firstimedness of each of these as I watch them.

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