Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Hidden Fortress (Akira Kurosawa, 1958)

Misa Uehara, Toshiro Mifune, Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara in The Hidden Fortress (1958).

Just finished watching another Kurosawa film, this time it was The Hidden Fortress, made in 1958. The film follows Matakishi and Tahei, two peasants who was late for a war and forced to dig graves by the winning side. After escaping from labor they find a stick of wood with gold hidden inside it, soon after they run into a stranger who is a general on the losing side of the war. It turns out that he knows where the rest of the gold is hidden and he is also, unbeknownst to the peasants, transporting a princess to safety. To cover up her status, she is appearing as a mute peasant. They decide to team up when the general uses Matakishi's and Tahei's greed to get them to help carry the gold. The rest of the film shows their journey through enemy territory.

Visually, The Hidden Fortress is the most impressive film of Kurosawa's that I've seen so far. This was his first film using the 2,35:1 format and he makes the most of it. As for the characters, they seem more one dimensional than what I'm used to from Kurosawa. The only one who really changes, even if just a little, is the princess who has to live like a peasant and learns a thing or too about humbleness and sacrifice. It's not a drawback, though, since all the characters are good fits for an action/adventure comedy, especially Matakishi and Tahei who are as dumb and cowardly as they are greedy. The Hidden Fortress is not my favorite Kurosawa film so far, but as an entertaining adventure, not many films beat it, old or new.