Jungle Man Corner

Throne Of BloodWent and saw Throne of Blood on Saturday night. It's an adaption of Macbeth, reset from Scotland to Japan. It was playing as part of the Film Forum's Kurosawa/Mifune film festival.

It'd been a long time since I'd seen it, and I'd never seen the film in a theater. It really is an astonishing film -- Mifune's grimacing from scene to scene; the incredibly long takes that Kurosawa uses; the visual rigor and careful framing that gives the film such an amazing look.

One of the things that Kurosawa does is he doesn't over-edit the film; he uses very long takes, giving his actors time and space to work with. The heart of the ghost scene is done in one shot; Kurosawa moves his camera around the set, showing -- and then not showing -- the ghost without special effects, and letting Mifune register his character's increasing desperation and growing insanity without resorting to cinematic tricks.

The acting, too, is amazing. Kurosawa has his actors work in a very un-naturalistic manner; they owe more to kabuki and noh than they do to Stella Adler or Lee Strasberg (Kurosawa did the same thing in his other great Shakespeare adaption, Ran). Yet the (obviously) highly stylized acting really works, in that it draws you deeper and deeper into the action and the characters. I'm not a student of acting, and I can't tell you why it works; I can just say that it does work.

The Film Forum showed a new print of the film; it looked really good. It's hard to capture the snap and the pop of a really-well shot black & white film on video. The contrast ranges aren't really the same, and subtle shadings tend to get block up and get muddy. They also used a new translation; since I don't speak Japanese, I can't attest to how good it is, but it seems to be capture the film well enough.

As a side note, the Japanese title of the film doesn't translate as "Throne of Blood". It's "Spider Web Castle", which is the name of the castle in the film. "Throne of Blood" is a better title; however, I doubt that it would have been all that politically correct for Kurosawa to name his film that in post-war Japan.

Anyway, if you're at all interested in film, cinema, asian film (you know who you are), or if you just like good movies, you really owe it to yourself to go on down the Film Forum and catch the rest of the series (if you don't live in New York, you can at least rent many of the films in the series on VHS or DVD).

Throne of Blood has its last showings today, so if you want to see it (you really should) you've got one more chance to catch it.