Mifune: The Last Samurai (2015)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Toshiro Mifune; if you know anything about Japanese cinema, or cinema in general, really, you’ve heard that name before. Not only was he Japan’s biggest movie star in the 50s and 60s, but his films went on to inspire the likes of George Lucas, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese. To quote this documentary, “Without Mifune, there wouldn’t be a Magnificent Seven, Clint Eastwood wouldn’t have a Fist Full Of Dollars, and Darth Vader wouldn’t be a samurai.” And that’s true. Many of Mifune’s most popular films–Seven Samurai, Yojimbo–were remade in the States as Westerns. George Lucas openly admits that the original Star Wars was modeled after Mifune’s Hidden Fortress. And Darth Vader’s outfit is, indeed, highly reminiscent of a samurai’s armor. But who was he in real life? What was he like behind closed doors? Those are the questions that this documentary seeks to, and, in my opinion, manages, to answer. Because this is a highly engaging, deeply entertaining film.

I learned so much from this picture, not simply about Mifune, the man, but also about the Japanese film industry, and the impact that his work has had on the world. There were so many things that I found out about him that I never would have suspected. For instance, did you know that he was actually born and raised in Qingdao, China? Yeah, until he was 20 years old, he never set foot on Japanese soil. Not only that, he was also Christian. His parents were Methodist missionaries, and that’s why they were living in China to begin with. And as if that’s not crazy enough, he was originally supposed to play Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars, but he turned it down because his agent thought the movie would be a flop. This documentary is full of fascinating little tidbits like that, and with interviews from his children, actors and stuntmen who worked with him, and filmmakers who were inspired by him, including the likes of Spielberg and Scorsese, you get a real well-rounded portrait of the man. You see his strengths, like his charisma, strong work ethic, and loyalty to friends and colleagues, and his flaws, like his pride, drinking, and pension for womanizing. And the film, in a shockingly short runtime–just about 80 minutes–manages to paint a thoroughly detailed picture of what japan was like at the time he came on the scene.

If you like movies, if you like history, if you like to learn and be entertained in general, give this film a look. I guarantee that you will enjoy yourself. Because I did. And unlike other documentaries I’ve seen, such as The Act Of Killing and The Last Days, I actually do want to watch this again. And that says something.

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