Saturday, June 10, 2006

Throne of Blood

Title: Throne of Blood -aka- Kumonosu jô (1957)
Dir: Akira Kurosawa
Rating: *** out of 5 stars

I am a BIG fan of Shakespeare, especially his bloody tragedies. And who better to adapt a bloody Shakespearian tragedy than Akira Kurosawa? Even better, this film is based on Macbeth, one of my favorite plays, and stars my favorite actor from Seven Samurai - Toshirô Mifune - in the lead role.

After a great military victory, generals Washizu (Mifune) and Miki (fellow Samurai alum, Minoru Chiaki) encounter an old witch in Spider's Web Forest. The mysterious old hag fortells great things for both men, who laugh off her predictions. But when her prophecy begins to come true, Washizu's mind becomes cluttered with envy and distrust.

Not helping things, his wife Asaji (aka, the infamous Lady Macbeth) manipulates him into a murderous scheme. Thereafter, Washizu and Asaji get what they hoped for, but not without a cost. Both slowly lose their minds and the once-valorous general makes a whole heap of enemies.

I love the Macbeth story. While a well-made film, I think The Bard himself is largely to thank for why Throne of Blood is so compelling. I even wish Kurosawa had spent more time on Asaji's descent into madness, which is one of my favorite aspects of the play.

The performances are top-notch. As stated, Mifune is awesome and a fitting choice for "Macbeth" especially as he is going insane. As Lady Asaji, Isuzu Yamada is CREEPY AS HELL, which is perfect for the role. Even creepier is the old witch, who has got to be the scariest character on film at that time. I don't know how the filmmakers synthesized her voice, but it's pretty goddamn eerie. I couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman, which is fittingly eerie, as well.

My biggest complaint with the movie is the pace. Sooooo slow at times. I would have rather Kurosawa cut a few scenes shorter and included more of the original play. It's not as exciting as Seven Samurai (despite being much shorter), but it has some cool moments, especially the very end.