Kristina and I each watched and reviewed a film from her list of 10 Classics to see in 2015, BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956).
Now we've turned our attention to a film from my 10 Classics list, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958). Be sure to check out Kristina's review of THE HIDDEN FORTRESS at Speakeasy, as she always has interesting insights to share.
THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, known as KAKUSHI-TORIDE NO SAN-AKUNIN in its native Japan, was directed by Akira Kurosawa. This was only the second Kurosawa film I've ever seen, following HIGH AND LOW (1963) earlier this year -- which happens to have been another film from Kristina's list!
THE HIDDEN FORTRESS tells the story of Princess Yuki (Misa Uehara), whose kingdom has been lost to war and who is struggling to make it through enemy territory to an allied country. Yuki is guided by the loyal General Rokurota Makabe (Toshiro Mifune). A pair of silly, greedy peasants (Kamatari Fujiwara and Minoru Chiaki) accompany them; the peasants don't realize the true identities of Yuki and the general, but are lured to help by the princess's fortune in gold, which she is taking along with her to help rebuild her empire. There are many adventures and narrow escapes as the group tries to make it to safety.
The widescreen black and white photography of THE HIDDEN FORTRESS by Ichio Yamazeki (also known as Kazuo Yamasaki) includes many stunning shots. In terms of STAR WARS influence, I was struck by the scene where the Princess looks back toward her hidden fortress and sees it ablaze, which felt very much like the moment where Princess Leia watches Alderaan destroyed. The Princess gazing off into the distance early in the film also reminded me of Luke and the setting suns on Tatooine.
One of my favorite moments was when General Tadokoro (Susumu Fujita), whom the general had dueled but refused to kill, switches sides. A foreshadowing of Lando Calrissian in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)?
THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is a satisfying adventure film, and seeing it has also served to continue to deepen my interest in Japanese cinema. It's rather exciting to know there are so many great Japanese films still ahead of me to see for the first time.
THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is available from the Criterion Collection in a dual-format Blu-ray/DVD set, or on DVD from Criterion's bare-bones Essential Art House Collection.