Monday, February 16, 2009
Throne of Blood (AKA Spider Web Castle)
I just got the chance to watch Throne of Blood, of the darkest and most fun Kurosawa films. Herc, Sarah and I went to Grand Illusion Cinema, again, since they are wisely having a month of Kurosawa films. We're getting to be regulars here, and for good reason. It's a comfy place, and the people are all incredibly nice. This is really impressive when you think that they are volunteers. They don't really have to be nice, there's no manager looking over their shoulder. But they are great folks. If they got vegan hot dogs at the concession, I'd never leave.
Throne of Blood is a great film to start off a Kurosawa marathon. It's quick, and dark. It still has some of the elements of theater that really impress me about his work. The great pauses, and long shots. If you haven't seen it, the story is Macbeth. Kurosawa changed the plot, though, so instead of being killed by a moral authority, like Macbeth, Washizu is killed by his own archers when his plans fall apart. I kept thinking of this difference while watching it. I don't know how it feels to someone raised in Japanese culture, but for me, I kept wanting someone to stand up and say, "Wait, this is crazy, what's wrong with you people!"
I'm not sure where the title comes from in English, the Japanese title is Kumonosu-jo, or Spider's Web Castle. I can see why they changed it, it has a certain horror movie connotation in English. But it's a great title. The connotation in Japanese is more of the deception, the spider's web of lies and betrayal that leads to the final conflict. You always know that Washizu is doomed; even he seems to know it, and tries to avoid setting out on the path.
The scenery is amazing, and makes me miss Japan. The exteriors were filmed around Mt. Fuji, and they are gorgeous in black and white. It appears to be winter, or early spring, and the ground is mostly barren. As usual, after watching a Kurosawa movie, or an Ozu movie, I want to sit on the floor drinking tea and staring out at the rain. I'm not sure if this is a normal or healthy response, but it's what happens. I feel good about that.
Throne of Blood also has one of the greatest death scenes in movie history. Toshiro Mifune gets talked about a lot, and for good reason. He could really just grab a scene and run with it. He knows when to shout and when to be silent, and when to flail at arrows in his chest. That is talent.
I do wonder, watching this, how people can romanticize the samurai. Their life seems pretty awful. I'd stick to being one of the rice farmers, making an honest living, not bothering anyone. Your job is to smile and nod at the crazy men hacking each other to pieces. And to grow rice. I get that.