Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Movie Musings: Mid-Kurosawa

***Note: I just realized that this post is inaccurate. Walter Hill did NOT direct "Die Hard." My apologizes. I try check my facts for accuracy before I post, but didn't do it this time. Such is arrogance. However, Walter Hill did direct "48 Hours" a movie I enjoyed very much, but he still doesn't measure up to Kurosawa or Leone.***

For a while now, I've been watching the films of Akira Kurosawa. When I'm finally finished I'll write a post of my overall reactions, but wanted to write about one film in particular and compare it to the subsequent remakes.

Yojimbo/Fistful of Dollars/Last Man Standing.

Story: Yojimbo - the silk merchant and his cronies vs. the sake merchant and his cronies.
Fistful of Dollars - Mexican thugs (played by Italians) vs. white gun runners.
Last Man Standing - Irish gangsters vs. Italian gangsters.

Our anti-hero rides into town and pits both sides against each other among other things.

Director: Akira Kurosawa/Sergio Leone/Walter Hill. Let's take a look at some of the other work these men have done: Seven Samurai/The Good, the Bad and the Ugly/47 Hours. Maybe if I squint long enough, Mr. Hill will be able to get up on his chair long enough to kiss Kurosawa's and Leone's butts.

Badass, crazy guy: Tatsuya Nakadai/Gian Maria Volonte/Christopher Walken. Now we have a worthy comparison. Although Nakadai's turn in the Sword of Doom establishes him as the most perfect sociopath ever to grace the screen, his performance here is nothing to sneeze at (plus he's the only samurai with a gun). Volonte's performance as the lead Mexican Ramon is charismatic and robust. Walken, not surprising, is the best part of Last Man Standing. Scary and funny with a scarred face to match.

Leading man: Toshiro Mifune/Clint Eastwood/Bruce Willis. You just have to see that list and there's really nothing more to say, is there?

Some random notes:

Yojimbo - the dog running down the street carrying the severed hand when Mifune first walks into town (which looks like a western town, by the way) is priceless. This is a great film and one of Kurosawa's most influential.

Fistful of Dollars - Nobody can squint like Clint does, and nobody looks better in a poncho. Cowboy clothes are super sexy too.

Last Man Standing - Let's see, a gangster movie set in a western town where there's either a ton of dust everywhere or it's running so hard that it's flooding. Hmm. On the other hand, Willis is never shy about showing his bare butt. I guess that's a good thing. Also, it's always nice to see Bruce Dern in a movie.

1 comment:

Vili Maunula said...

Kurosawa's producers, of course, sued the makers of A Fisftul of Dollars for the unauthorized remake. Kurosawa himself wrote to Leone that "It is a very fine film, but it is my film", and it is said that Leone, after receiving the letter, ran on the streets of his town euphorically bragging to everyone about the fact that Akira Kurosawa had written him a letter.

Leone ended up not making any money out of the work, while the Japanese producers got a hundred thousand dollars and 15% of what A Fistful of Dollars made in the box office.

Yojimbo was of course remade a number of times, and the character also appears in some subsequent films like Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo.

Have you seen Sanjuro, Kurosawa's own satiric sequel to Yojimbo?