East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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To me, Toshiro Mifune will always be half of the cast of John Boorman’s Hell in the Pacific – the first film I ever saw featuring the Japanese actor. Later came Rashomon, Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, the latter long after Magnificent Seven had become one of my favorite westerns.

Toshiro Mifune’s power as an actor was perfectly showcased in Hell in the Pacific, a movie in which he had very little dialog, but projected such overwhelming physicality that words were unnecessary.

And so I went and watched Mifune, the Last Samurai, a few nights back.

The bad thing about Steven Okazaki’s Mifune is, it is too short.
The documentary covers the birth of the chanbara – with a great selection of silent movie excerpts – and then charts Toshiro Mifune’s rise as the quintessential samurai actor through his early years and his collaboration with Akira Kurosawa. And then stops.
And leaves us wanting more.

But apart from that, there’s a lot of good in the documentary – the already mentioned relics from the silent era, the interviews with actors and technicians that worked with Mifune and Kurosawa, Shiro Mifune’s (Toshiro’s son) recollections. Lots of photos, lots of movie clips.
It’s a small tribute to a man that was larger than life, and that cannot fit the frame of a simple documentary.
But a great show, and well worth watching.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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