MCW: Best Foreign Actor: Toshiro Mifune

I don't know what modern Hollywood would have done had there not been an Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, my choice for best foreign actor. With feudal Japan as a backdrop for the rise of the warrior class, the samurai (specifically a masterless/ronin samurai) personified an archetype very familiar to us: an outsider with his own code of ethics; like Han Solo, or Eastwood's Man with No Name. The character Eastwood plays in A Fist Full of Dollars is essentially the same character Mifune plays in Yojimbo, the quiet stranger that rolls into town and unleashes some epic badassery where it is well-deserved. I can't watch Kill Bill without a million flashbacks to classic Mifune moments: sword fights in the snow; dealing with (literally) insane rivals, fights against impossible odds; betrayals by dragon ladies and so forth.

Here we have a neat little compilation (2:12) a fan made with clips from "the Sword of Doom" where Mifune's character (entering the clip at :22) battles the crazy as hell Ryunosuke (played by the excellent Tatsuya Nakadai) in a series of clips that will show you, definitively, where Quentin Tarantino developed his style.

Not only were these samurai movies big to Tarrantino, but George Lucas has said that the Hidden Fortress was a huge influence on Star Wars IV. The funny thing is how often Kurosawa, the best director paired with Mifune, drew upon western literature for his films - especially Shakespeare.

Epic struggles remain the same in every time and in every language. If you have never seen a Toshiro Mifune film, start with Yojimbo. Like all great art, it remains as cool now as the day it was made.


Movie Clip Wednesday is a game that is open to all. To Play, visit Milk RIver Madman to find each week's assignment, then post your entry by wednesday.

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Blogger Milk River Madman said...

I need to broaden my horizons. Those were both excellent. Need to watch some of these for sure. Thanks for playing. Happy MCW.

8:42 PM  
Blogger K9 said...

You might have seen him if you saw red sun with charles bronson. funny as hell to see a samurai stride up in the old west .

9:09 PM  
Blogger Joanna Cake said...

I often talk about the fact that the spaghetti Westerns were inspired by Japanese film... and yet I've never watched any. I suspect that, with out martial arts backgrounds, they would be extremely entertaining for Ruf and me.

Great and unusual pick x

2:20 AM  
Blogger moi said...

Most excellent choice. I didn't fully appreciate American movie-making until I took a history of Japanese film class in college. Ah, all make sense now!

6:36 AM  
Blogger Karl said...

Good morning K9,

Great choice, I remember him from Red Sun. The whipping he gave Charles Bronson was a hoot. "you look like you're getting tired we'll call it a draw."

7:22 AM  
Blogger K9 said...

cake: yeah. did you catch that shot of Mifune from the back as you survey the group of men he has to fight? you'll see that device a lot in sergio leone movies too - where you are in effect, the Man with No Name. if you love the martial arts then you will come away with a deep appreciation of Mifune. I suppose chow yon fat or whoever played in crouching tiger has carried the tradition on....

moi: literally the scene where the bride faces O Ren ishii at the tea house is from sword of doom. and you'll see the spare look of westerns in yojimbo. and then there is Rashamon....There was a time when i had a TV and video player in my art studio. I would run samarai movies with no sound just so i could look up at the fight scenes. Damn i wish i had gone to film school! Theres an interesting youtube where lucas talks about how obi wan kenobe is modeled after mifune. coolio!

Mornin' Karl: isnt that a blast? bronson is young in that movie and looks kind of good. but the reserved Mifune wins the day -and with a great deal of humor.

Happy MCW all!

9:00 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

Oh wow, a totally unexpected choice. I have always heard that those westerns were based on Japanese movies, just didn't know which ones. Not sure I'd make it sitting through an entire one of these, but love the clips! Happy MCW!

12:26 PM  
Blogger lilith said...

oh yeah .. we love these in our house ..
of course, living with 3 boys that is not surprising.
i'm not sure i would have watched them on my own if it hadn't been for the boys in my life. the male species turns out to be good for something after all, eh? .... :)

3:01 PM  
Blogger Buzz Kill said...

Interesting choice and clips. Red Sun and Hell in the Pacific (with Lee Marvin) are the only films of his that I've seen. Great sword fighting clips.

Happy MCW!

9:55 AM  

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