Everyone remembers their first time with Toshiro Mifune. With almost anyone else, such a first would be recollected with a shrug or a casual “it was . . . fine.” But Mifune induces delirious and perfect recall: of him flat on a haystack in Sanjuro, rolling in the mud in Rashomon, hotly tucked in a train bathroom in High and Low. In severe cases, numbers enter the conversation, as in: let’s rank all sixteen Mifune-Kurosawa collaborations, or “he’s like a seven in his early noirs but a solid nine in Yojimbo.” That Mifune still prompts such possessiveness might seem a little excessive. I said so to a friend, who informed me that the only acceptable and human response to Mifune is to want him supine.
For most of the past century, when people thought of a Japanese man, they saw Toshiro Mifune. A samurai, in the world’s eyes, has Mifune’s fast wrists, his scruff, his sidelong squint. Postwar Japanese cinema—led by Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Naruse, Ozu, Kobayashi—featured many men who were bores and disappointments, and actors such as Chishu Ryu, Tatsuya Nakadai, and Takashi Shimura infused that stoop of failure with inevitability, resonance, depth. Mifune, meanwhile, embodied a different kind of failure, one that looked sexy. He may have played warriors, but they weren’t typical heroes: they threw tantrums and fits, accidentally slipped off mangy horses, yawned, scratched, chortled, and lazed. But when he extended his right arm, quick and low with a blade, he somehow summoned the tone of epics.
Keaton at the Crossroads: Buster’s Last Silent Comedy, Spite Marriage
Despite the studio system’s stifling conditions, Buster Keaton’s follow-up to The Cameraman remains a testament to the funnyman’s singular style.
The Same Old Song: A Guide to Neonoir
Since its classic-Hollywood heyday, noir has remained a vibrant mode in both studio and independent filmmaking, taking on nostalgic resonances in the highly referential work of Robert Altman, Arthur Penn, Brian De Palma, and the Coen brothers.
Carole Lombard’s Divine Lunacy
A raucous, fast-talking diva, the actor had a remarkable ability to convey both glamour and silliness, a gift that made her the queen of screwball comedy before her untimely death in 1942.
You have no items in your shopping cart