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.


Anonymous said...

Though I have it on DVD, this is the first time I've seen it. I was desperately trying to remember the plot of Macbeth during this, but (aside from the old guy being the weird sisters) it was lost.

This is a wonderfully brilliant film with a pace that is slow, but never dragging.

Did you notice Takashi Shimura? He's in everything!

Smartz and I both thought the lady playing Washizu's wife was the lady in Rashomon. But as it turns out, nope.

The end scene, with the REAL FREAKING ARROWS hitting around Mifune was great. And a hell of a feat! How he didn't get poked is beyond me.

Great show and I can't wait for Hidden Fortress!

Anonymous said...

i was confused during parts of the movie. some of the scenes weren't as clear as other and i didn't know why the two fortresses were fighting each other if they were supposed to be united.

eric explained quite a bit of it too me, and it made sense, but i wish i would have known a bit more about it before i watched it. maybe i wouldn't have been so confused. oh time!

and by the way, i am so in the mood for vegan hot dogs! we were watching Angel last night and they had hot dogs and then i couldn't stop thinking about them!

WildBeggar said...

yeah i am excited for hidden fortress. great scenery in that... i'm not sure where they shot it but it seems harsh