Last month I saw three classic films by the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, all were recommendations of my cinemaphile friend Dada. First was Ran, which basically looked like an oriental and apparently grislier version of King Lear. Ran reminded me of and was watched solely (this is a strange motivation, I have to concede) for the battle scenes partly shown in a computer game I loved to play when I was in high school, Shogun Total War.
Secondly, there’s the tragicomic Kagemusha, the plot of which is centered on the double who impersonated the feudal warlord Takeda Shingen during the bloody Sengoku (or warring states) period in the 16th Century. Shingen and his Takeda clan had the most formidable army and was poised to take the shogunate from the other warlords shortly before his sudden death. There are memorable battle scenes, but it’s the suspense from the possibility that the double’s real identity is found out that really moves the story.
My favorite of the three, The Seven Samurai, is a 1954 black and white film about seven ronin (masterless samurai) who helped defended a peasant village against bandits. Over at the Book View Cafe Blog, science fiction writer Nancy Jane Moore writes that The Seven Samurai is the best film ever made. Of course, I won’t go as far as that but I sure do agree with her when she said that the film’s story was “put together impeccably. Yes, it moves slowly, but it needs to move slowly to build to the powerful ending.”