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Toshiro Mifune's 100th

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    Just to mark a big anniversary today – its 100 years since the birth of Toshiro Mifune.



    Criterion celebrated with a special little trailer and a lineup on their Criterion Channel, which includes the 2015 documentary that I still haven’t seen. I think.


    Patrick Galvan

    Criterion’s got a pretty nice line-up of his films for streaming. I wish they’d get their hands on the ones he made under Mikio Naruse (and just more Naruse films, in general). Steve Okazaki’s documentary is a solid introduction for anyone who’s not well-versed on the actor’s life and career; and even if you have read Galbraith’s Kurosawa-Mifune book, it’s sort of worth it for all the personal testimonies. I recall a very touching moment in which Kyoko Kagawa talked about how she wished she’d made another movie with Mifune before he died, playing an old married couple or something to that effect.



    Thanks very much for the link to the Criterion Channel and the Mifune celebration. I am taking advantage of the 14-day free trial to watch Kurosawa films I haven’t seen before, including ‘I Live in Fear.’ A non-Kurosawa film that I also watched and enjoyed was ‘Rickshaw Man,’ directed by Inagaki and starring Mifune. The DVD doesn’t seem to be available on Amazaon, so I’m wondering how many of you have seen it. It was made in 1958 and is set in semi-rural Japan in the early 1900s. Mifune is a (low class) rickshaw puller who rescues the young son of a (much higher class) military family. The father soon dies, and Mifune continues to befriend the mother and son. You can see where this is going. We follow events for about ten years. Mifune loves the mother. She values him, of course – he’s willing to help her in any way he can. It doesn’t end happily.

    What’s terrific about the film are the performances of Mifune and Hideko Takamine as the mother. She is beautiful and restrained. He is handsome in a roughneck sort of way, exuberant, resourceful, and caring. Sort of a Meiji-era version of his character in ‘Seven Samurai.’ Galbraith says that Mifune was not happy with the film, but I found the portrayals believable and appealing. There are a couple of long fight scenes which I found tedious, but the whole film is redeemed by the drumming sequence. There’s a festival in the hometown featuring large taiko drums and drummers paraded through the streets on carts. To please the now-grown-up son, Mifune hops on one of the carts and demonstrates drumming “as it was done in the old days.” It is a bravura, unforgettable performance. It is Mifune exulting in his skill, in his physicality, in the joy of performance. I’ve seen all but one of the Kurosawa-Mifune films, and none of them has anything like this. It is magnificent!

    The film is a remake of the 1943 version, also directed by Inagaki. The screenplay for that version was co-written by Inagaki and Mansako Itami, who was the mentor of Shinobu Hashimoto (Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, among others). The cinematographer in 1943 was Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashomon, Yojimbo).


    Patrick Galvan

    I’ve seen Muhomatsu, the Rickshaw Man. I have mixed feelings on it overall, but it’s nice to look at and the performances are all around quite wonderful. Takamine was one of the great Japanese film actresses of the 20th century, and she’s in very good form here, as well. I’m quite interested in seeing the original 1943 version — but it doesn’t seem to have been subtitled anywhere.

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