Akira Kurosawa


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Judo Saga (1943), 5/10
The Most Beautiful (1944), 6.2/10
Judo Saga 2 (1945), 4.5/10
The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945), 6.2/10
No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), 6.8/10
One Wonderful Sunday (1947), 6.5/10
Drunken Angel (1948), 6.5/10
The Quiet Duel (1949), 6/10
Stray Dog (1949), 6.5/10
Scandal (1950), 6.3/10
Rashomon (1950), 7.7/10
The Idiot (1951), 6.5/10
To Live (1952), 8.5/10
Seven Samurai (1954), 8/10
I Live in Fear (1955), 6/10
Throne of Blood (1957), 7/10
The Lower Depths (1957), 6.5/10
The Hidden Fortress (1958), 7.2/10
The Bad Sleep Well (1960), 6.5/10
Yojimbo (1961), 7.2/10
Sanjuro (1962), 6.2/10
High and Low (1963), 7.5/10
Red Beard (1965), 6.7/10
Dodesukaden (1970), 5/10
Dersu Uzala (1975), 7.2/10
Kagemusha (1980), 7/10
Ran (1985), 7.2/10
Dreams (1990), 6/10
Rhapsody in August (1991), 6.5/10
Madadayo (1993), 6/10
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1. Noraimi

Akira Kurosawa è figlio di un militare, che tentò invano di avviarlo all'accademia; a diciassette anni comincia invece gli studi di pittura che ne fanno in breve un avviato pittore. Il suo interesse principale, dopo la pittura, è a quel tempo la letteratura russa, della quale l'entusiasma la possanza drammatica.

Al cinema giunge per caso, un po19 grazie al fratello che fa il "benshi" nelle sale di proiezione, un po19 per effetto di un'inchiesta indetta da una casa di produzione. Nel 1938, ventottenne, inizia l'apprendistato, che durerà cinque anni. I primi film sono degli "jidai- geki" influenzati dallo stile "fisso" di Mizoguchi [Sugata Sanshiro/ Judo Saga (1943), un campione di judo che per diventare tale deve innanzitutto migliorare le sue qualità morali; Tora no o wo Fumu Otokotachi/ The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945), la storia comica e thriller di un generale in disgrazia che cerca di espatriare travestito da monaco e ci riesce grazie a un astuto portiere; Waga Seishun ni Kuinashi/ No Regrets for Our Youth (1946) descrive l'attività rivoluzionaria di una giovane, innamorata di uno studente che morirà in prigione, un film insolito perché con protagonista femminile e teso ad esaltare l'individualismo], parodistici del militarismo, ma con Subarashiki Nichiyobi/ One Wonderful Sunday (1947) Kurosawa paga il proprio contributo alla causa del film realista. E` la commedia populista di due innamorati poveri che riescono dopo una serie di traversie a soddisfare il desiderio di assistere a un concerto; osservazione della vita ordinaria.

Yoidore Tenshi/ Drunken Angel (1948). is a gangster film and film noir that copies stereotypes of the European and US film noir.

It is a hot evening. Three girls are walking. A man is playing the guitar. A doctor examimes an injured young man (Toshiro Mifune) who refuses to tell him what happened: he has a bullet in his hand. The young man tells him that his name is Matsunaga and everybody knows him in his neighborhood. The doctor, Sanada, calls him a hoodlum. The young man is also coughing and the doctor realizes that he has tuberculosis. The hoodlum doesn't believe him and walks out. The two men waiting outside are friends of the hoodlum, goons. The following day the doctor sees children playing in filthy waters and warns them that they may catch typhus. They insult him telling him that he is just a drunk. The doctor is looking for Matsunaga, who is like a king in his neighborhood, feared and respected, and loved by women. When he finds him, the doctor tells him that he should stop drinking or will die. The gangster, furious, kicks him out. Back in his studio, he tells his young pretty assistant Nanae that Matsunaga reminds him of himself when he was young. He wasted the best years of his life in alcohol and brothels. His friend Takahama, how graduated at the same time, now has a whole clinic, while he is still a small-time doctor. His assistant is afraid of Okada, a gangster who is about to be released from jail, and from whom she's been hiding. But she still has feelings for him, her abusive boyfriend who mistreated her, gave her syphilis, and then abandoned her. One of his patients is a young woman afflicted with tuberculosis, and she is improving. Matsunaga comes to visit him and the doctor can see that he is scared. Matsunaga is too proud to admit it and they get into a fight. Matsunaga walks out in the rain with no umbrella. One day his rich friend Takahama picks him up in his expensive car and gives him a ride. Takahama reveals that he's the one who sent Matsunaga to Sanada after seeing a hole in the X-rays of his lungs. Sanada visits Matsunaga at his nightclub and scolds him like a father. Matsunaga finally shows up at his office drunk, but with the X-rays, and this time he accepts the doctor's orders to change his lifestyle. Outside a man plays the guitar every night. That night an older man borrows his guitar to play his own song. The doctor's assistant hears it and recognizes Okada's favorite song: "The Killer's Anthem". The following day Okada shows up behind Matsunaga. We learn that Matsunaga became the yakuza boss thanks to Okada. Matsunaga cannot refuse to drink socially with Okada and gets drunk again at the nightclub, despite his pledge to the doctor. They dance with girls while the singer sings a mambo. The following day the doctor is furious at Matsunaga, who has wasted in one night all the progress so far. Matsunaga loses all his money gambling with Okada, and the game ends with Matsunaga coughing up blood and being carried to the doctor. The doctor is angry at him but lets him sleep in his studio. The doctor's assistant Nanae, though, is scared of Okada and hides in the back. Matsunaga gets bored of staying in the doctor's studio and walks out. He narrowly avoids Okada who comes looking for the doctor's assistant. The doctor denies knowing where she is. After two thugs tell him that they saw the girl there, Okada comes back and threatens to kill the doctor, who defiantly doesn't show any respect or fear, but Matsunaga overhears from the other room and comes to vouch for the doctor. Okada leaves, but Nanae, who is hiding in the house, is terrified. Sanada dresses up to report Okada to the police. Matsunaga, instead, walks out to talk to the big yakuza boss, boss also of Okada. But Matsunaga overhears the big boss tell Okada that he, Matsunaga, will soon be sacrificed to the rival gang, since he has little to live. When Matsunaga shows that he overheard him, the big boss throws a bunch of money to his feet but Matsunaga walks out without picking it up. He stops to see a girl who runs a bar and loves him. She asks him to leave town with her and start a new life. He ignores her but quickly realizes that nobody in the neighborhood respects him anymore: everybody knows that Okada is the new boss, and Matsunaga has lost all the power. Matsunaga confronts Okada with a knife, ready to kill him, but starts coughing blood, and Okada grabs his knife and kills him. Days later the doctor meets the girl who loved Matsunaga. She has his ashes and wants to bury them in the place where she wanted to move with it. The doctor, however, cannot forgive Matsunaga for not abandoning the gangsters. They are mourning together when a girl comes running towards him with a smile on her face: it's his patient who has fully recovered from tuberculosis.

Nora Inu/ Stray Dog (1949) is a lengthy, moralistic police thriller with a protagonist who is devastated by an existential crisis and who wanders through the moral and material ruins of post-war Japan looking for a criminal who is also undergoing an existential crisis but has chosen the opposite path. They come from the same background and from the same traumatic experience (the war) but theirs become a battle between good and evil: good is about being honest even in the face of adversities, evil is about succumbing to them and behaving like an animal.

At a police station the rookie detective Murakami (Toshiro Mifune) reports that someone stole his pistol. A flashback shows how he borded a crowded bus on that very hot day and a pickpocket stole his pistol, and how he chased the thief in vain. His father advises him to check mugshots in the vast library of the station. An older officer tells him that the thief probably had a partner and the rookie remembers a middle-aged woman standing next to him. The older officer recognizes her as Ogin, a former geisha. The rookie notices in the newspaper the story of another stolen gun. The two confront Ogin at her home but she refuses to collaborate. The desperate rookie decides to follow her and she tries in vain to get rid of him. Eventually, moved to compassion, she tells him to check the illegal arm dealers. The rookie wanders for hours in the alleys of the city trying to find a clue that would lead him to the gun racket. Finally a young man approaches him to sell him a gun in return for his ration card and tells him to meet at a bar and look for a girl with a flower in her hair. He arrests the girl and then interrogates her to find out if she sold a pistol like his. She has but she explains to him that his inept arrest caused her pimp and the customer to flee. His chief tells him that he has been punished (three months at half pay) and that a pistol like his was used in an armed robbery. He helps the forensic expert to match the bullet used in the robbery with one of his own bullets (recovered from the shooting practice). The expert tells him that they match. The rookie is even more devastated and submits a letter of resignation. The chief, however, tears it up and assigns him a partner, a legendary detective named Sato. The rookie wants to interrogate the girl again, but finds that she's sharing an ice cream and a cigarette with that very Sato, who is treating her like an old friend. His method works: he finds out that she loaned the pistol to a left-handed baseball fan named Honda, a gun dealer. The rookie finds a mugshot of Honda. Sato tells him that the pistol was used to steal money from a young woman, her whole savings: the real damage to her is not the wound but that she lost her entire dowry. The rookie is further humiliated by the fact that the assault happened right after he arrested the girl: he arrested her and let the gun dealer escape. They find Honda among the crowd of a baseball game and he hands them the ration card of the man who has the pistol: Yusa. They visit Yusa's sister who is a good woman married to a hard-working man. In Yusa's room they find his diary and learn that he is a penniless war veteran. They also find a new clue: a hotel bellboy who was his war buddy and works at a hotel managed by a yakuza. The bellboy tells points them at a showgirl, Harumi, who is a close friend of Yusa. They visit the club where she is performing in a dancing jazz number with other girls, all of them scantily dressed, with no air conditioning in such a hot day. Sato and the rookie walk backstage where the girls are lying exhausted on the floor and ask to talk to Harumi. She is a childhood friend of Yusa and she admits that he visits her often but she burst into tears because she knows nothing of his criminal life. Sato takes the rookie to meet his family (wife and three children). The rookie Murakami confesses that he feels bad for Yusa, a war veteran who fell into poverty. Several cars of cops and an ambulance rush towards a country house where an armed robbery has been committed. Murakami witnesses the desperation of the husband of the woman who got killed. The forensic expert determine that the gun used to kill the victim is Murakami's pistol. Murakami is even more devastated. Sato is convinced that Yusa will visit Harumi and so they return to her nightclub but she's not there. They find her at her mother's place. Harumi refuses to cooperate despite her mother begs her. Sato sees a box of matches with the address of an hotel and decides to go and check it out, leaving the rookie to deal with the two women. Harumi admits to the rookie that she knows where he hides but refuses to tell him: Yusa carried out the robbery to get the money to buy her an expensive gift. She is bitter with society, where bad people get rich and good people remain poor. Meanwhile, Sato checks the register of the hotel and finds someone who registered with Harumi's last name. He just checked out, drunk, and took a taxi. The taxi driver tells Sato that Yusa went to a geisha joint. Sato interviews the madame who runs the brothel and she introduces him to the geisha who entertained Yusa: Kintaro. It finally starts raining after so many hours of intense heat. Meanwhile, Harumi wears the sexy dress that Yusa bought her and dances wildly in front of Murakami and her mother until her mother slaps her in the face. Murakami explains why this case is so personal for him, that he feels guilty that so many tragedies happened because he lost his pistol. Meanwhile, Sato, soaked in rain, reaches the hotel where Yusa is hiding. Yusa overhears the wife of the hotel owner mention that Sato is a cop just when Sato is trying to telephone Murakami to tell him that he found Yusa. Before he can talk, Sato is attacked. Murakami visits Sato at the hospital: he is in grave conditions after being shot with another bullet from Murakami's gun. Murakami screams in desperation. Murakami spends the night at the hospital. In the morning Harumi shows up: she has finally decided to cooperate and tells Murakami that she had an appointment with Yusa at a train station. Murakami rushes there but he doesn't know what Yusa looks like. Murakami guesses which one is Yusa but Yusa guesses that he is a cop and flees. Murakami chases him until Yusa pulls out the gun, Murakami's gun. Yusa shoots three times, the three remaining bullets in the pistol, but only wounds Murakami. Murakami fights with him in a swamp and finally arrests him. Yusa bursts out in tears hearing children nearby sing a happy song. Later Sato at the hospital congratulates him on solving his first case.

Altri film dell'epoca: Ichiban utsukushiku/ The Most Beautiful (1944), Zoku Sugata Sanshiro/ Judo Saga 2 (1945),

Shizukanaru Ketto/ The Quiet Duel (1949) is a well-intentioned but rather boring melodrama.

On a rainy night a doctor, Kyoji, is unable to keep up with the wounded soldiers that trucks keep bringing to the improvised hospital camp. He takes his gloves off in order to better operate a soldier and cuts his finger. When the patient recovers, the doctor asks him if he has syphilis: he does. The doctor realizes that he may have touched contaminated blood. Some time later, when the war is over, a woman and a cop are waiting to see the doctor. The cop saved the woman, Minegishi, from committing suicide after they had a one-night stand and she got pregnant , and she now helps out at the clinic while studying to become a nurse. She gossips that the young doctor has broken his engagement to the volunteer nurse Misao for unknown reasons. The young doctor has just performed an operation on the child of a poor family and doesn't want to be paid. The old doctor who runs the clinic, Kyoji's father, catches Misao looking at old pictures of her with the young doctor, his son Kyoji. The old doctor confesses that he doesn't know what came on his son Kyoji: Kyoji made Misao wait for six years and now doesn't want to marry her. Kyoji refuses to tell Misao why he doesn't want to marry her anymore. Minegishi finds him injecting himself the medicine for syphilis, and understands. Kyoji's father overhears them talking about it and he understands too. Kyoji tells his father how he got it. His father thinks that it can take three or five years to heal. Misao is already 27. Kyoji doesn't want Misao to wait such a long time. Minegishi has overheard the whole conversation. Minegishi too keeps the secret from Misao. One day the cop comes asking for the doctor. The doctor visits a sick man at the police station: it's Nakata, the soldier who gave him syphilis. Nakata insists that his disease is cured, and even recklessly got married and got her pregnant. Minegishi tells Kyoji that she knows the truth. She also tells him that Misao is getting married to another man. Kyoji talks to both Nakata and his wife Akiko about the disease, and about the risk to their baby, and Nakata promises to cure himself. Misao visits one more time on a snowy day and tries again to change Kyoji's mind. He wishes her a nice life and they bid farewell. Later he commiserates himself, a man who never had sex, condemned to be lonely for the rest of his life, and not for a fault of his own. He makes Minegishi cry listening to his story, and Minegishi, who has abandoned any hopes of getting married, tells him that she's ready to marry him even without sex; but he ignores her. Misao sends him a postcard from her new home. Nakata's wife Akiko arrives at the clinic in serious conditions: the foetus is dead and they have to operate her to save her life. Nakata shows up drunk, threatening the doctor. Minegishi slaps him and tells him that his baby was born dead. He faints when he sees the dead foetus and then goes into a catatonic state. Kyoji continues his work, with the reputation of being a saint, assisted by Minegishi, who is raising her baby.

Sukyandaru/ Scandal (1950).

Nel 1950 Kurosawa dirige Rashomon (1950), ambientato nel Medioevo feudale, ma animato da problematiche culturali moderne quali la relatività pirandelliana e la psicanalisi freudiana.
The trial's witnesses are not shown in a courthouse but in a white open space, against a wall, under the sky, almost like a Zen garden with sitting men instead of rocks.
The main parable is not that truth is relative and one can never really know it but that the individual reflects the whole race. The peasant who lies and steals has lost faith in the human race. That's because he has lost faith in himself. In order to regain faith in the human race, he has to atone for his sin and regain faith in himself.

During a storm two men are taking shelter under the porch of a dilapidated or unfinished structure. A third one joins them and is puzzled about the horrible murder that it heavy on the two men's minds and the subsequent trial that just took place at the courthouse. One, a peasant, says he just doesn't understand, and the other one, a Buddhist priest, says he has never witnessed anything like that. The peasant describes how, three days earlier, he went to the forest to gather firewood. He found objects, notably a woman's hat, a rope and an amulet case, and then a dead body. He ran back to town terrified. At the trail he testified all of this.
The priest testified that he met the murdered samurai just before his death: a flashback within the flashback shows that the samurai was armed with sword and bow and was pulling a horse on which a veiled woman dressed in white was riding. Another witness showed up carrying the notorious bandit Tajomaru (Mifune) whom he captured. The psychotic bandit made no mystery that he was the murderer. A flashback within the flashback shows that the bandit was taking a nap in the forest when the samurai and his wife passed by. Seeing the beautiful face of the woman, he couldn't resist and approached them. He used an excuse to lure the man deep into the forest, where he easily attacked him and tied him to a tree. Then he went back to pick up his wife. Her anxious look of love made him desire that she could see her husband tied to a tree, so he took her there. Then he raped her in front of the powerless husband. She liked it and then she begged him to kill her husband. The bandit freed the husband and killed him in a fair duel. Meanwhile the woman had disappeared.
The rain is still falling. The Buddhist priest tells the peasant that the woman showed up in court to testify, but her testimony was completely different. She even looked different from the way the bandit had described her: docile instead of ferocious, helpess instead of cunning. The peasant, who has been listening intently, whispers that both the bandit and the woman lied.
The woman, crying, told the jury that (flashback within the flashback) the bandit left after raping her. She freed the husband but the husband didn't move: he stared at her coldly, full of loathing and hatred. She grabbed the precious dagger and begged him to kill her. When he still wouldn't move, she stabbed him in the chest and fainted.
Even a psychic was summoned by the court to communicate with the dead man and hear his version of the story. The dead man, speaking through her, told the court that (flashback within the flashback) his wife wanted to go away with the bandit and asked the bandit to kill him. The bandit himself was so shocked by her evil nature that he was ready to kill her, but she ran away. After looking for her in vain, the bandit came back and freed the husband. The husband couldn't bear the shame of his wife's betrayal and committed suicide with the dagger.
The rain is still falling. The priest has finished his story of what happened at the trial. The peasant, who has been calling every witness a liar, now tells his two companions that (flashback within the flashback) the samurai was not killed by a dagger, but by a sword. He confesses that he witnessed the whole thing. He saw the samurai rape the wife. Then he begged the wife to marry him, and even pledged to change life. The wife, instead, grabbed the dagger and freed her husband. But her husband rejected her, disgusted that she had been violated. The wife then pitted one against the other. The two men fought a duel and the bandit killed the husband with the sword. The wife, terrified, ran away.
The rain is still falling. Suddenly the three men hear a baby cry. The third man, a cynical selfish being, steals the kimono of the baby. The peasant is outraged, insults the thief and fights to get back the kimono. But the third man unmasks his hypocrisy: the peasant has been calling everybody a liar, but he was the first liar; and from his story the third man has guessed that the peasant stole the precious dagger that has disappeared. He is a thief and a liar too. The third man takes off with the kimono. The peasant cries, ashamed, and now it's clear what he could not understand: he could not understand his own vile behavior (robbing a dead man after what he had witnessed). The peasant then volunteers to take the child home and raise him with his children, as a way to regain faith in himself and in the human kind.

Lo stile violento di Kurosawa tratteggia l'assunto, la fatiscenza della società giapponese, e il suo opposto, la redenzione morale dell'individuo; il regista non esita a distruggere il mito del samurai, mettendo in scena tre personaggi meschini, corrotti, bugiardi, vili e assassini. I simboli del tempio dinanzi al quale si svolge il processo (il soprannaturale), della foresta nella quale si è compiuto il delitto (l'animalesco) e del portico in rovina sotto il quale trovano riparo dalla pioggia i tre mandanti e il piccolo bastardo nonchè il ricorrente numero magico del tre (l'umano), enfatizzano oltre misura l'ambientazione fantastica (la misteriosa amazzone sul cavallo bianco, l'intrico sfavillante delle spade, i fiotti di sangue, il fantasma), ma sono anche funzionali all'assunto col suo opposto. La crisi di identità collettiva del dopoguerra è fedelmente rispecchiata in questo film storico, che getta una luce ambigua non soltanto sul mondo dei samurai ma, di riflesso, anche su quello dei soldati giapponesi che commisero atrocità peggiori durante la guerra, atrocità che pesavano ancora sul subconscio collettivo.

Kurosawa then adapted to the screen Dostoevsky's ferocious Hakuchi/ The Idiot (1951) as a lengthy film (originally four hours, but most of it was lost). Unfortunately, it is lacks pathos, and it is a bit too plain, despite the unhappy ending (different from the novel's). A few scenes are oneiric, but too little to justify the general dearth of imagination.

The action takes place in Japan at the end of World War II. On an overcrowded boat a young man, Kameda, has a nightmare that wakes up the man next to him, Akama (Toshiro Mifune). Kameda tells him that he has nightmares because he was sentenced to death and saved at the last minute. He was hospitalized and only now has been released; but he is still an epileptic, or an idiot. They take the train to the same town, where Akama hopes to propose to the beautiful Taeko and Kameda hopes to be received by his only relative, Ono. When Komeda sees a picture of the woman, he feels that she is unhappy. She has the reputation of being the lover of her older protector Tohata, and this man has now endowed her with a huge dowry to get her married and stop the gossiping. The man who is supposed to marry her and get the dowry is Kayama, a friend of Ono. Ono does not know that Kayama has also been flirting with his daughter Ayako. Kameda would have been rich if Ono, upon hearing of his execution, had not took possession of the ranch that his father left him. Ayako takes her cousin the idiot for a tour of the countryside. Kayama gives Kameda a letter for Ayako. Ayako asks Kameda to read it aloud. In it Kayama asks if Ayako loves him. He is willing to call off the wedding if Ayako loves him. Ayako, offended, replies that she does not bargain. The idiot rents a room at Kayama's place. Kayama lives with his parents, his little brother and her hot-tempered sister Takako. His mother and Takako are ashamed that Kayama is marrying a high-class prostitute for money. Taeko rings the bell. She has come to introduce herself to Kayama's family. Her sister refuses to talk to her. Then Akama arrives, escorted by a whole bunch of friends. Akama is furious: he wants Taeko at all costs. He offers Kayama twice the amount of Tohata's dowry if Kayama calls the wedding off. Kayama's sister is even more offended. Kayama is about to hit her when Kameda stops his hand. Kayama then slaps the idiot in the face. Everybody shuts up, embarrassed. The idiot forgives him. Akama and his friends leave. Humiliated, Taeko apologizes to Kayama's mother and leaves too.
Kameda is invited to the party at Tohata's place where the wedding between Taeko and Kayama is to be announced. Taeko welcomes the idiot, but the idiot tells her that she has the same suffering yes that he saw in one of the young men who were sentenced to die with him (the man was killed before the reprieve arrived). In front of everybody she asks Kameda, of all people, whether she should go ahead with the wedding. Kaeda says no. She tells Kayama she won't do it. The wedding is aborted. Kayama loses the money. And Taeko tells Tohata that she is leaving with house with nothing rather than being treated like merchandise. Akama walks in with the amount her had promised to pay to Kayama, but that only makes Takeo more determined to be penniless. Kameda offers to take her in. He is the only one who sees her as pure. The others laugh at him: he's an idiot (who doesn't even realize he's talking to a prostitute) and he's penniless too. However, Ono breaks the news that Kameda is the legitimate owner of the ranch and is therefore a rich man. Taeko cannot take advantage of the idiot and opts to go with Akama. But first she takes the money and throws it in the fireplace. Then she challenges Kayama to pick it up while it is burning. Kayama watches the money burn and faints. Someone pulls out the money from the fire. Taeko puts it next to Kayama: he now has earned it. She walks out with Akama.
Kameda writes a sincere letter to Ayako that she lets her parents read. Her parents laugh at the idea that the idiot might be falling in love with her daughter, but she tells them that noone has ever been so honest before. Meanwhile, Taeko swings between Kayama and Akama. Kameda visits Akama, who is more desperate than ever. Akama hates Kameda because he has realized that Taeko is truly in love with only one man: Kameda. She does not admit it because she doesn't want to ruin Kameda. That's how much she loves him. Akama is jealous of that pure love, and later tries to kill Kameda. Kameda is saved by an epileptic fit that scares Akama away.
All of this happens in the middle of a very snowy winter.
Ono's wife visits him while he is recovering. She wants to know the meaning of the letter that he sent to Ayako. Kameda honestly does not know. He just does what he feels like doing. Ayako replied to his letter with the request that he did not visit her.
When Kameda meets Akama again, Akama is still hateful. The reason is again convoluted: Taeko wants Kameda to marry Ayako, because she wants Kameda to be happy, which means that Taeko still loves Kameda of that pure love that Akama would like for himself.
Ayako meets Kameda at a park bench. She tries to make him jealous by telling him that she is in love with Kayama (who just tried to commit suicide), but in reality it's Ayako who is jealous of Taeko, for which Kameda clearly has strong feelings (even though he denies that they are the sensual kind of love). Ayako reveals that Taeko has written letters to her that basically advise her to marry Kameda. The headstrong and eccentric Ayako therefore swears that she will never marry him. At a dinner at her house, Kameda formally proposes to her in front of her parents. He realizes however that Taeko is standing between them: even when she's trying to unite them she separates them.
Ayako insists on meeting her nemesis Taeko. Taeko tells Akama that she is scared: Ayako represents the ideal that she wanted to be but she cannot be anymore. Instead she is disappointed by the encounter. Ayako comes through as a spoiled mean-spirited girl, who insults her. Taeko retaliates by demonstrating her power over Kameda: she tells Kameda to choose between her and Ayako, and Kameda, sensing the suffering in Taeko's eyes, cannot decide. Ayako flees the house in the middle of a blizzard, and Taeko faints.
Akama drags Kameda back to his house and shows him the dead body of Taeko: he killed her. Akama is delirious and Kameda lays catatonic next to him. It is not said, but it sounds like Kameda died. When she is told, Ayako simply whispers that she was the real idiot.

Kurosawa's Ikiru/ To Live (1954) faced themes that belonged more to Italian neorealism than to Japanese realism.

The first scene shows the radiograph of a stomach. The radiograph shows a cancer but the narrator says that the owner of that stomach does not know it yet. The narrator then proceeds to describe the boring monotonous life of Kanji, an aging bureaucrat at city hall. He works meticulously in a highly organized office. However, the citizens cannot get much out of it: when a delegation of women comes to complain about a mosquito-breeding pond, the office sends them to another office that sends them to another office and so forth all the way until an office sends them back to Kanji's office. Furious, they are allowed to file a written complaint to the chief, Kanji, who is not in the office that day. During the lunch break, his employees gossip that Kanji has never taken off a sick day in 30 years. They wonder who will replace him if he dies. Kanji in fact went to the hospital for his chronic stomach pain. A fellow patient tells him how sudden and terrible the death for stomach cancer can be. Kanji is terrified. The doctor tells him it's a mild ulcer, but Kanji understands the truth. When he leaves, the doctor tells his assistants that Kanji has six months to live at most. Back home, Kanji overhears his son Mitsuo and his daughter-in-law make plans to buy a new home using his retirement money. His wife died when Mitsuo was still a child, and he has been a quiet widower all those years, sharing the house with his son and his son's wife, living a lonely and monotonous life. He sits in front of his wife's shrine and remembers the good old days.
The following day he disappears. Both his coworkers and his family are puzzled. The most devoted worker ever is neglecting his duties. Mitsuo visits his uncle and aunt to get their opinion and tells them that Kanji has also withdrawn a huge sum of money.
Kanji is staying at a inn. He feels miserable now that he realizes how he has wasted his life. He meets a young writer who introduces him to the material pleasures of life: gambling, music, girls, drinking and dancing. The following morning, though, Kanji feels miserable again. While he is walking home, he meets one of his employees, a lively girl, Toyo, who has decided to quit because work at the office is too boring. He takes her home, shocking his son and daughter-in-law. He enjoys Toyo's company and does not ask anything in return. His son, though, thinks that she is a prostitute and he is spending all his money on her. When Kanji tries to tell him about his cancer, Mitsuo doesn't let him talk. He just yells at him that he is embarrassing the family and wasting the inheritance money. This makes Kanji feel even more lonely. He keeps seeing Toyo but she is getting uncomfortable about his attentions. Kanji has to tell her the truth: that he is dying. She is now very busy at work in a factory that makes toys for children. In a club where a large party is celebrating a birthday, he tells her how much he envies her vitality and vows to imitate her. She is scared of his tone.
Kanji returns to work, surprising his coworkers. His attitude has changed. He wants things done, things that are useful to ordinary people. To start with, he puts someone in charge of solving the problem of the mosquito-infested pond, and doesn't want to listen to excuses.
Five months later he is dead and all his acquaintances gather to mourn him at a memorial. A politician is interviewed by journalists about Kanji's role in building a children's playground where the mosquito pond used to be. It turns out that the park was completed in record time and the politician took credit for it in the opening ceremony without even mentioning Kanji's dedication to the project. The journalist, instead, heard the rumor is that it was Kanji who made it happen and that the politician took credit for himself to get reelected. The rumor has it that Kanji in fact went to die in the park as a protest against bureaucracy's inertia. He was found frozen to death. The politician denies any wrongdoing, explains that Kanji died of cancer, bids the journalists farewell, and rejoins the banquet. It is obvious that the politician didn't do anything other than inaugurate the park, but one of Kanji's coworkers quickly praises the politician for his role in making the park happen, thus betraying Kanji's memory. The women who originally filed the complaint come to pay their emotional respect. They do know whom they have to thank for the park. When the women walk out, though, the men assembled around the table start praising everything and everybody except Kanji. Ultimately, they belong to the bureaucracy and want to praise the bureaucracy. The only one who defends Kanji's record (with tears in his eyes) is his coworker Kimura. The discussion shifts to a new topic: what made Kanji change attitude? His son is certain that Kanji did not know about his cancer because he never told his son. His uncle suggests that it was the girl.
A flashback returns to the scene where Kanji told his employees to start working on the park project. He personally visited the site and was horrified. He then started pushing everybody in every department that had to be involved in the project. Every worker in the bureaucracy felt that his behavior was weird: he really wanted to use the bureaucracy to actually get things done, which was unheard of. The very politician who now takes credit for the project was initially irritated by Kanji's insistence. Many thought that it was outrageous that a low-level bureaucrat would bother a high-level politician. He even had to face threat from gangsters. The ailing Kanji however presided over the beginning of the construction.
The men at the memorial are getting drunk. The conversation now turns to how a simple man succeeded in making bureaucracy work. A police officer comes to pay his respects. He was the last man who saw Kanji alive. Kanji was in the park, all alone, happy, playing like a child, and singing an old song, "Life is brief", while the snow was beginning to fall.
Moved by the story, the drunk coworkers swear to follow his example.
However, the following day they are sober and back to work with the old attitude. They ignore petitions and just file papers. Kimura in vain tries to remember their good proposition. They stare at him like he is a madman. Kimura walks by the park that his friend built and stares at the children who are playing.
Bureaucracy seems to win in the end. Kanji's enlightenment and example seems pointless, as his coworkers go back to the old manners. However, the children who enjoy the park seem to imply that there was still a win, that Kanji's life was not useless after all. He couldn't change the cold nature of bureaucracy but did make a difference in the lives of ordinary people.

Il film è nettamente spaccato in due: prima l'esposizione della personalità del burocrate, poi la rievocazione da parte degli amici.

Il DeSica di Umberto D (per quanto concerne la ricerca di uno scopo nella vita, e la scoperta che lo scopo più nobile sta proprio nella vita umile di tutti i giorni), Il Kafka del "Processo" (nel modo in cui la burocrazia e` presentata come un mostro a se stante), il Pirandello alla Rashomon (nelle rievocazioni postume) e la tragedia Dovstoevsk-iana (nell'oltraggioso banchetto funebre e nella lucida disperazione del condannato a morte) concorrono a plasmare un solenne omaggio alla forza morale, alla dignità, dell'uomo, sempre in grado di aggirare la bieca desolazione della società.

La splendida padronanza di mezzi messa in luce in Ikiru sfiora il titanismo nelle tre ore e mezzo del "jidai-sheki" Shichinin No Samurai/ The Seven Samurai (1954), un lungo delirio tecnico che saccheggia un repertorio di trucchi senza confini, dalla deformazione espressionista al montaggio futurista, e che sottende un compendio tematico: moderno cinema d'azione americano (bellico, western, gangster) e arcaico teatro in costume giapponese, ironia e spettacolo, violenza e meditazione, conflitti sociali e sfrenato individualismo, realtà e allegoria, divertimento e lirismo. Tutto filtrato attraverso la lente distaccata di un regista tanto minuzioso nel descrivere calamità, orrori e combattimenti quanto avulso dai momentanei sentimenti di entusiasmo o di dolore, partecipe soltanto, in maniera efficacemente naif, nella morale finale.

Nel medioevo Giapponese regna l'anarchia e i villaggi sono inermi di fronte alle scorrerie dei banditi. Un gruppo di quaranta banditi attacca un villaggio idilliaco di contadini, lasciando dietro di se` soltanto sofferenza e morte. I contadini sono gia` tartassati da tasse e guerre e non possono continuare cosi`. Non c'e` nessuno che li possa difendere e i ladroni hanno gia` detto che torneranno. Disperati, e divisi in due fazioni, una che vuole combattere e una che vuole fuggire, si rivolgono al vecchio saggio. Il saggio decide di combattere... ma assumendo i samurai.
Convinto un anziano maestro dei samurai, questi convince a sua volta altri sei samurai a lavorare per il villaggio e a rischiare la vita per difendere il raccolto, nonostante i contadini non possano offrire un grande compenso. Il processo di arruolamento e` lungo e costellato di episodi minori. Il figlio di un contadino si prostra davanti al amestro e chiede di essere allenato a diventare un samurai. Il maestro lo addestra, ma rifiuta di prenderlo come samurai: e` troppo giovane. Gli altri samurai lo convincono pero` a prenderlo, anche perche' sono soltanto in sei e l'obiettivo era di arrivare a sette. Il maestro e i sette samurai si mettono in marcia verso il villaggio. Un ubriacone (Mifune) che pretende di essere un samurai tenta invano di farsi accettare da loro e, respinto, li segue a distanza.
Un contadino paranoico taglia i capelli di sua figlia perche' e` convinto che i samurai, appena arriveranno, violenteranno tutte le ragazze attraenti. Gli altri contadini vengono presi dal panico ma l'anziano li invita alla calma e da` il benvenuto ai samurai. Il giullare ubriacone scatena il panico semmai facendo credere che i banditi stiano arrivando e poi si prende gioco delle paure dei contadini.
I samurai cominciano ad addestrare gli uomini validi e a costruire una difesa per il villaggio. Il giovane intanto incappa nella ragazza dai capelli corti e se ne innamora.
Quando Mifune porta loro uniformi di samurai morti, i sette samurai sono sconvolti, perche' quelle uniformi ricordano loro il destino che li attende. Ma Mifune tiene invece loro un'arringa in cui ricorda loro come in tutti quegli anni i samurai abbiano ucciso, rubato e violentato, e i contadini, stremati dalla fama e dalla miseria, si siano semplicemente difesi. Il maestro capisce che Mifune dev'essere in realta` il figlio di un contadino.
I samurai convincono i contadini che subito dopo il raccolto bisognera` distruggere parte del villaggio per renderlo piu` difendibile. Assistono al raccolto e giocano con i bambini e Mifune fa divertire i contadini con le sue buffe trovate (si e` anche procurato un cavallo, ma il cavallo e` piu` bizzarro di lui). Il giovane e la ragazza dai capelli corti si sono appartati nel bosco e e sono i primi ad avvistare i banditi. Si tratta soltanto di tre vedette e un samurai, aiutato da Mifune, si incarica di eliminarne due e di catturarne uno vivo. I contadini vorrebbero linciarlo, i samurai lo vogliono vivo: ma alla fine lasciano che una vecchia si prenda la sua vendetta per la moglie del figlio. Il maestro decide che e` venuta l'ora di attaccare e sceglie due samurai, una guida e Mifune. I quattro compiono un massacro nell'accampamento dei banditi, sorpresi nel sonno. Ma la guida riconosce in una delle schiave sua moglie, la moglie si getta fra le fiamme della casa, l'uomo tenta di salvarla, un samurai tenta di salvare lui, e il samurai rimane ucciso. Tornati al villaggio e date le estreme esequie al morto, Mifune da` coraggio a tutti issando la bandiera del villaggio. I banditi attaccano, ma grazie alle fortificazioni costruite dai samurai, sono costretti ad esporsi. Il maestro dirige la battaglia come un generale. Mifune compie atti di grande coraggio impone disciplina carica ai contadini, perche' riesce a parlare loro come i nobili samurai non riescono. Mifune riesce persino a rubare uno dei tre temibili fucili dei banditi, anche se viene poi rimproverato dal maestro per aver abbandonato il suo posto. La tattica del maestro (di catturare i nemici poco alla volta) funziona, ma costa cara in vite umane, e anche un altro samurai perde la vita. Il giovane e la ragazza fanno l'amore, consci che potrebbero morire in qualsiasi momento, ma il padre della ragazza li sorprende e va su tutte le furie. Il giovane viene comunque perdonato dagli altri samurai. Il giorno dopo si tiene la battaglia campale: i banditi sopravvissuti attaccano con decisione. Uno di loro riesce a barricarsi in una casa con un fucile e spara prima al samurai piu` coraggioso, l'idolo del giovane, e poi a Mifune. Entrambi muoiono, ma prima di morire il secondo riesce a trafiggere a sua volta l'intruso. Tutti i banditi sono morti.
Il villaggio festeggia e torna alle sue incombenze agricole, osservato dai tre sopravvissuti: il maestro, un samurai e il giovane. Il maestro proclama saggiamente che la vittoria è dei contadini, non dei samurai.
Il film lunghissimo (tre ore e mezza) e` un'epopea lenta e maestosa, ma al tempo stessa vicina alla vita dell'uomo comune. Kurosawa mostra compassione e comprensione per la vita umile dei contadini, nel momento stesso in cui esalta i valori della civilta` dei samurai.
I sette kamikaze scoprono una vocazione che è soprattutto un tentativo di dare uno scopo alla loro vita.
Il testimone più sincero di quell'arcaico mondo è Mifune. Egli è un po' il giullare di corte che può dire sempre la verità. È l'unico personaggio libero. L'ironia con cui commenta il comportamento delle tre parti (contadini, samurai e banditi) è una denuncia delle loro contraddizioni e delle loro viltà, e allo stesso tempo un tentativo di abolire le differenze di casta.

Ikimono no Kiroku/ I Live In Fear (1955) è un dramma contemporaneo che affronta un caso di pazzia patriarcale affine a figure shakespeariane e dovstoevskiane.

Un vecchio industriale, ossessionato dalla paura della bomba atomica, fa distruggere la propria fabbrica affinchè nessuno si opponga più al suo desiderio di espatriare.

Analisi psicologica e denuncia sociale (gli operai rimasti senza lavoro) tracciano un vivido quadro della depressione post-Hiroshima del Giappone.

Kumonosu-jo/ Throne of Blood (1957) è la tragedia disperata del potere di Macbeth trasferita nel Medioevo cavalleresco dei samurai, rivista secondo l'ottica del teatro no, dando particolare risalto a particolari estranei alla tragedia, come l'atroce morte del regicida o certe scene concitate secondo lo stile "no". Questo film segna una tappa fondamentale nel processo di maturazione dello stile distaccato di Kurosawa (raramente la macchina da presa si avvicina ai personaggi). Ne risulta una violenza grandiosa e disumana, un caos animalesco allegorico.

A messenger arrives at the castle to report to the king that the enemy is laying siege to his fortresses. Everything seems lost, but instead the messengers keep coming and they bring good news. The battle turns to the king's favor. The king summons the two heroes to the castle in order to thank them personally, but the two get lost in the forest, which is famous for being a tricky labirynth, and have the vision of an oracle in a hut, who foretells that they will both receive a promotion, plus Washizu will become the new king and then Miki's son will also become the king. The vision disappears and a thick fog descends on the forest. When the knights finally find their way through the fog and reach the castle, they receive indeed the promotion that the oracle foretold.
Washizu installs himself comfortably in the fortress that has been assigned to him, but his scheming wife convinces him that the oracle's prophecy leaves him no choice: either wait for the lord to hear of it and kill him, or kill the lord before he hears of it. His wife tells him that his very friend Miki could betray him. This creates jealousy, fear, distrust.
When the lord comes to visit, Washizu strikes. Then he chases the prince back to the castle, which is guarded by Miki. Surprisingly, Miki refuses to let the prince in, and Washizu senses a conspiracy against him. So he uses a trick (a funeral procession for the dead king) to get Miki to open the gates of the castle. It turns out Miki is a trustworthy ally, and gladly accepts Washizu's rule. Washizu, who does not have children of his own, returns the favor by appointing Miki's son as his own heir. It sounds like the second prophecy will also come true, some day. But Washizu's wife disagrees. When she cannot convince Washizu otherwise, she tells him that she is pregnant. Thus Washizu orders the murder of Miki and his son. Miki dies, but the son runs away. Washizu's wife gives birth to a stillborn baby, and Washizu goes mad.
Now the enemy attacks again, but this time the prince is with him, set to avenge his father's assassination. Washizu roams the forest to find the spirit and get a new prophecy: the spirit tells him that he will win the battle as long as the trees of the forest do not rise against him. But that's precisely the trick used by the enemy army. Washizu is struck by countless arrows.

Just like Renoir's Les Bas-fonds, Kurosawa's Donzoko/ Lower Depths (1958) is an adaptation of Gorky's theatrical drama "Na Nde", shot live in just two takes, oneiric, delirious and angst-filled, set in Japan in the 17th century. Unlike Renoir, Kurosawa followed faithfully the original. Just like in Dostoevsky's "The Idiot", he ends up with an overlong film.

A dilapidated house in a slum is shared by a beautiful daydreaming prostitute, an old drunkard who used to be an actor, a gambler who was hit the night before, a young thief named Sutekichi who sells his merchandise to the landlord, a hard-working craftsman, a former wealthy samurai, the very sick wife of the craftsman, etc. One day Okayo, the young sister-in-law of the sweet-talking landlord Rokubei, introduces a new tenant, the kind, smiling and elderly Kahei. Sutekichi the thief offers a gift to Okayo but she indignantly refuses. The craftsman warns Sutekichi that he is playing with fire: everybody knows that he has an affair with the landlord's much younger wife Osugi and now he's trying to seduce her prettier sister. Osugi shows up to check on the tenants and she displays her bitchy temper. She hears the gossip and is jealous of Ayako. Later Osugi assaults her sister and the landlord has to divide them. Thanks to his kind manners and supportive words, Kahei is becoming popular with everybody.
Osugi walks into Sutekichi's shack and confronts him. She knows that he likes Okayo and offers him a trade: if he kills her husband, she will let him have her younger sister. Sutekichi suspects that she just wants him arrested for the murder, but then her husband finds them together and, jealous, calls his wife a whore and argues with Sutekichi. The thief almost strangles him, but Kahei has overheard everything and yawns very loud, enough to save the landlord. Always smiling and whispering, Kahei advises Sutekichi against murder.
The old sick woman dies and nobody seems to care much. Their priority is to get rid of the corpse. The only ones who are shaken by her death are Okayo, who is a good person, and the daydreaming prostitute, who remembers how she once loved and was loved (and is scorned by the others for that pathetic story). Kahei announces that he is about to leave, although he doesn't quite know where to next. His last action is to help Sutekichi win over Okayo: Sutekichi proposes to Okayo and swears to give up his criminal life, and "granpa" advises Okayo to accept. Osugi realizes what is going on and comes out to tell Okayo that Sutekichi is just a hypocrite. Sutekichi stands firm, and accuses Osugi and the landlord of always having treated Okayo like a slave. The craftman, who never cared for his dying wife, is now devastated that his wife is dead. The landlord has found out that Kahei is not the innocent pilgrim they believed him to be: he has a criminal past and is wanted by the police. One day the tenants hear Okayo scream and rush to the house of the landlords. Okayo has been tied and beaten. The tenants free her. When Sutekichi arrives, he is furious and pushes the landlord away. The landlord falls badly and dies. Osugi is amused that Sutekichi has indeed murdered her husband as she wanted and laughs openly about it. Okayo overhears her sister and Sutekichi trading accusations, and realizes that they have been having an affairs. She feels Sutekichi has been lying about his love for her. Okayo, hysterical, accuses both of them of having conspired to get rid of the landlord and of her so that they could be together. They are both arrested, but later Osugi is released. The tenants gossip about it. The samurai boasts about his old wealth and the prostitute takes her revenge by doubting it and challenging him to prove it: now he knows how it feels when people don't believe you. The big mystery is what happened to Kahei: he disappeared the moment the guards appeared. Okayo too has disappeared. The actor hangs himself.

6. Kakushi toride no san Akunin

La truculenza, l'ironia e l'avventura che caratterizzano i "jidai-sheki" di Kurosawa sono sguinzagliati in Kakushi Toride no san Akunin/ Hidden Fortress (1958), lungo film cavalleresco, picaresco ed eroicomico, estroso compromesso fra il "Don Quijote" e l'"Orlando Furioso".

Two men, Tahei and Matashichi, walk in a wasteland arguing all the time. They are peasants who sold their home to buy weapons and join the war in a neighboring state, and they re now trying to return to their home state, empty-handed, having lost even their weapons. They are terrified when they witness the execution of a warrior by a handful of knights. One decides to keep going straight home, while the other wants to make money first. The former meets three other tramps near the impassable border patroled by the knights. The latter walks into a village and is told of a huge reward to find a princess Yuki. They both get arrested by the army of the local warlord and taken with many other prisoners to the castle. The warlord believes that a treasure is buried in the castle and they have to dig until they find it. The two farcical characters are reunited when the prisoners stage a rebellion and escape. Dozens are killed. The two hapless tramps are left alone inside the fortress. There is a civil war raging in that territory between the usurper and the princess. The only way to get home safely is to go through another state that is not affected by the turmoil. They steal some food and run away. They accidentally stumble into the golden insignia of the princess, hidden inside wooden sticks. They keep searching for more when they notice a samurai (Toshiro Mifune) staring at them. They flee but the samurai follows them. The samurai shows up at night at their camp and offers them money to help him. He thinks he knows where the gold is hidden. He tells them that he is a famous general, and makes them laguh. He makes them dig near a hidden fortress while he disappears. They notice a girl who roams the hills and one day they meet her by a creek. She easily outruns them in the forest. They initially just want sex but when she drops an expensive comb they suspect she might be the wanted princess. The samurai stops them and tells them that he already turned in the princess for the reward. They don't believe him and one day Matashichi runs away to alert the rebel army and collect the reward. However, Matashichi returns empty-handed: the princess has already been found and beheaded. The samurai is mad at them for not trusting him but recieves the news about the princess in a subdued mood. He walks away and, unseen by them, enters a secret cave where he meets the wild girl and an old woman. The teenage girl is actually the real princess, Yuki. The old woman is her faithful servant. The samurai kneels in front of her and tells her that his own sister, also a teenage girl, gave her life to help them escape. Now that the enemy thinks the princess is dead it will be easier to cross the border. Instead of being grateful that the general sacrificed his own sister for her, the princess gets furious. She sees no reason why a girl like his sister should be worth less than a princess. She almost beats him. The old servant comments that her father brought her up like a boy because he had no male heirs.
Now they can plan how to pass through enemy lines. The samurai is only afraid of Yuki's temper and of her language. She cannot pass as a peasant if she talks the way she talks. She accepts to be mute until they reach their destination. The samurai tells Tahei and Matashichi where the gold is: in the creek, all disguised as wooden sticks. He has always known it. He just wanted to test them. He orders them to lead the "wood" on the horses and some on themselves. He tells them that the teenage girl is coming with them and is mute. And they set out through the lawless land.
The two tramps are neither courageous nor honest so they are not much help. At first they try to run off with the gold. Then they panic every time something goes wrong.
When the four arrive at a village, the princess sees a disgusting inn keeper treat a girl like a slave and even offer her as a prostitute to his customers. That girl is part of the bounty that the army took back from defeating Yuki's army. When a samurai offers the general money for the horses, Yuki orders him to buy back the girl. Thus they continue their journey with no horses and two girls; the two tramps carrying a cart loaded with the gold. The alarm has been given though that some men escaped from the hidden fortress. Soldiers realize that they are the wanted fugitives. The samurai has to kill them and then fight warlord Heiei in duel. He wins and the warlord lets him free. The word is out, though, that the princess may be alive and traveling with a girl and three men, with the gold disguised as firewood. The samurai decides to hide the gold in something else. While he is searching for containers, the two tramps try to rape the sleeping princess but she is saved by the peasant girl who then mounts guard for as long as she sleeps. Then the tramps foolishly decide to hide in the middle of a fire festival. Everybody dances around a huge bonfire and eventually the crowd also throws their "wood" into the fire. The samurai arrives too late. He tells the tramps and the princess to dance otherwise they could look suspicious. When the festival is over, they have to dig up the gold from the ashes and stack it in sacks. The two tramps are too greedy and don't want to leave any gold behind. Thus two soldiers spot them and follow them. The samurai beats them up and forces them to carry some of the gold. The alarm has been given, though, and the troops of the warlord soon corner them. The two hostages run out with their hands up but they are shot dead. The two tramps flee disguised as shrubs. The samurai and the two girls almost make it to the border but are arrested just when they catch the first glimpse of their destination. They are taken to the court of Heiei the warlord. Heiei used to admire and respect the samurai. After being defeated in duel, though, he lost his prestige. His lord publicly beat him. Now he is a changed man, bearing a scar across his face. Heiei witnesses the pride and honor of his enemies: the peasant girl tries to convince him that she is the princess so as to save the real princess; the samurai apologizes to the princess for failing; and the princess, who now talks, is proud to die with dignity after such an epic journey. Suddenly Heiei goes mad. He releases the horses that are carrying the gold. Then he fights his own men. Then he frees the samurai, the princess and the girl. Then he jumps on a horse and follows them across the border into the neutral state. The horses with the gold stop when they reach the two tramps, who, unaware of all that has happened, are starving in the middle of nowhere. They are delighted to see that they have all the gold to themselves but then start fighting over it. They are soon captured by the soldiers of the neutral state. They are taken to the samurai, who is now wearing a proper armor, and to the mute girl dressed in an aristocratic outfit, who is the (very talkative) princess. The samurai tells them that the gold is needed to rebuild the defeated army of the princess, but gives them a huge reward for helping carry the gold.

Il possente e vario affresco storico, che abbraccia tutte le classi sociali, riporta tutti i personaggi, umili e potenti, alla dimensione umana. Il generale rappresenta il team eroico della tragedia, la principessa rappresenta il tema esistenziale della poesia, e i due vagabondi rappresentano l'elemento comico che fa da contraltare alla tragedia.

 

7. Sanjuro

 

 

All'inizio degli anni Sessanta Kurosawa diresse un paio di western alla giapponese, Yojimbo/ The Bodyguard (1961) e Sanjuro (1962), che l'humor del regista trasfigura parodisticamente (anticipando il "western all'Italiana" e che mettono ancora in luce lo sdoppiamento della personalità Kurosawa in angelo e bestia.

l'individuo animalesco, rappresentato generalmente dalla maschera di Mifune, è l'altra faccia di una forza morale capace di qualsiasi impresa per il bene della comunità (una fusione psicanalitica di eroe western e antieroe zavattiniano, fra cinema degli impulsi primordiali e cinema dei buoni sentimenti).

Yojimbo/ The Bodyguard (1961):

Mifune è un samurai che capita in un villaggio afflitto da una faida fra due clan rivali. Caduta la dinastia, i samurai sono rimasti senza lavoro. Temuti da tutti, vivono un'esistenza isolata. Al tempo stesso regna l'anarchia perche' il potere centrale si e` disintegrato. I giovani rifiutano la vita noiosa del contadino e preferiscono l'eccitazione del "gambling". In questo paese il solitario samurai viene accolto con la stessa diffidenza. In paese tutte le porte sono chiuse, non c'e` nessuno per strada. A confrontarsi sono le gang di Seibei e Ushi-Tora, entrambi soggetti da forca disposti a tutto per conquistare il potere. I gangster vivono in gabbie, da cui hanno paura di uscire per non morire. Ciascun campo ha anche una gabbia di concubine, schiave rapite o comprate e tenute come galline e fatte esibire davanti agli ospiti. Mancano pochi giorni alla fiera della seta da cui dipende la prosperita` degli onesti abitanti della regione.
Il samurai si offre a Seibei che accetta di pagargli una cifra enorme. Ma poi il samurai ode la moglie di Seibei incitare il figlio a ucciderlo dopo la vittoria (il figlio e` in realta` un bambinone pacifico che e` molto riluttante ad accettare il ruolo di erede), e, per vendicarsi, il samurai si tira indietro proprio quando Seibei ordina l'attacco. I due schieramenti di sgherri rimangono nella strada sotto il sole del mezzogiorno a fronteggiarsi in maniera un po' comica, ma senza toccarsi, osservati dal compiaciuto samurai dall'alto di una scala. Arriva un emissario del governo a controllare la situazione in paese e le due gang devono fingere che tutto proceda normalmente. Per dieci giorni il paese riapre e il gambling scompare. Ma Ushi-Tora e` stanco di perdere soldi e fa uccidere un poliziotto in un paese vicino, in modo che l'emissario se ne vada a indagare altrove.
La pace sta per finire e i due campi tentano in ogni modo di comprare i servigi del samurai. Il samurai sta in realta` continuando a fare il doppio gioco, sperando che i due schieramenti si annichilino a vicenda per il bene del paese. La guerra ricomincia, attizzata proprio dal samurai che cattura due sgherri e li offre a una delle parti, causando la rappresaglia degli altri. Con l'arrivo del vile Nosuke, fratello minore di Ushi-Tora, le ostilita` "escalate" rapidamente: i due gruppi rapiscono membri delle rispettive famiglie (il figlio pauroso di Seibei e la moglie vinta da Ushi-Tora al gioco) e Nosuke fa uso di una pistola. La moglie schiava di Ushi-Tora per poco non manda in fumo lo scambio lo scambio di ostaggi quando corre dal figlioletto che la invoca. Il samurai e` disgustato nell'apprende che quella giovane e bella donna e` stata vinta con una scommessa e ha dovuto lasciare la sua casa e la sua famiglia per andare a servire un vecchio orrendo.
Il samurai decide di offrirsi a Ushi-Tora ma lo fa soltanto per liberare la donna sgominando in pochi secondi tutti i sei uomini che le fanno la guardia. Poi la restituisce al marito, Kuemon, e offre loro persino il denaro che ha ricevuto da Ushi-Tora. Poi fa credere a Ushi-Tora che sia stato Seibei. Ushi-Tora scatena la vendetta, dando fuoco ai magazzini della seta e aprendo i sacchi del sake. Il paese viene semi-distrutto. Nosuke ha pero` scoperto la verita` e va a saldare i conti il samurai. Lo portano nel loro covo e lo fanno torturare da un gigante: Ushi-Tora vuole riprendere la donna e crede che il samurai sappia dove si nasconde.
Il samurai riesce a fuggire con un trucco e poi, aiutato dal vecchio che lo aveva ospitato, riesce a uscire dal paese. Nel giro di pochi giorni e` pronto ad attaccare il paese, ridotto in macerie. Nella strada battuta dal vento si confrontano il samurai e gli sgherri sopravvissuti di Ushi-Tora, che hanno sgominato la banda di Seibei. Il samurai disarma Nosuke e poi in pochi secondi uccide o mette in fuga gli altri. Nosuke, morente, lo supplica di lasciargli toccare ancora una volta la pistola. Era un trucco per ucciderlo a tradimento, ma la morte lo coglie prima che riesca a premere il grilletto. Il pusillanime poliziotto del paese esce a segnalare con il tamburo che tutto va bene, ma cammina in mezzo ai cadaveri e alle rovine. Il Samurai si gira e se ne va.
Il film riprende i motivi del gangster film e del western Americani, ma ambientati in un Giappone medievale. Questo samurai non ha nulla del samurai tradizionale del cinema giapponese: si limita a difendere gli innocenti e a disarmare i vigliacchi (in particolare colui che si è armato di un'arma blasfema, la pistola). Le stragi sono funzionali a riportare la pace. Compiuta la sua missione riconciliatrice, riparte verso nuove avventure.

Janjuro è un samurai astuto e straccione che accorre in aiuto di nove colleghi perseguitati dai prepotenti e disonesti tiranni della zona che sono stati da essi smascherati; è un film tutto basato sugli scontri, sui duelli e sugli inseguimenti, come al solito miscele di truculenza e comicità (nell'ultimo duello, o parodia di duello, dal corpo della vittima il sangue zampilla letteralmente).

8. Tengoku To Jigoku

Nel continuo alternarsi di "jidai-sheki" e "gendai- sheki" Kurosawa torna al genere contemporaneo con Warui Yatsu Hodo Yoku Nemuru/ The Bad Sleep Well (1960).

Another film set in contemporary Japan is the detective movie Tengoku to Jigoku/ High and Low (1963), whose premise is the moral dilemma of Ed McBain's novel "King's Ransom" (1959): a kidnapper asking a rich man to pay ransom for someone else's child just when the rich man has borrowed the money for a deal that will change his life; if he doesn't pay, the child dies; if he pays, his own family is ruined. The self-made capitalist ends up paying and ruining himself, but also becoming a hero in the eyes of public opinion, that instead boycotts the businessmen who took advantage of his fall. The film turns into a detective movie in which an inspector, who admires the heroic capitalist, is determined to find the kidnapper and to nail him for more than just kidnapping: it's the cop, not the victim, who wants the criminal dead. The final confrontation juxtaposes the self-made man who is being reborn again and the loser who has never been able to rise from his poverty. The film contrasts the irrational demonic violence of the poor student, locked in his claustrophonic room (a character perhaps inspired by Dovstoevsky's Raskolnikov character in Crime and Punishment) with the rational ethics of the wealthy executive, who has climbed the ladders of society and lives in a luxury apartment. At the beginning the film is like a theatrical play, confined to one room of the villa. Then it starts exploring the city, and, once the young man becomes the focus, it descends into the hell of drug addicts, the exact opposite of the paradise represented by the villa at the top of the hill.

A meeting is taking place in a villa overlooking the city. Three directors of a shoe factory, led by Baba, show the fourth one, Gondo, the prototype for a new cheap and low-quality shoe that will increase profits, and ask Gondo to join forces with them so that they can wrest control of the firm from the old-fashioned president who, loyal to his customers, keeps ordering expensive money-losing, but durable, shoes. But Gondo has worked there for 30 years, since he was a teenager, and he is disgusted by the idea of selling such a cheap shoe. The conspirators threaten to side with the president and have him fired, but Gondo challenges them to try. After they leave, Gondo's wife Reiko realizes that something is wrong but he refuses to tell her what happened. Outside, the conspirators offer Gondo's right-hand man Kawanishi a post as director if he helps them unveil Gondo's strategy: Gondo must be plotting something against them if he is so sure of himself. The right-hand man, however, doesn't know what Gondo is up to because he hasn't told anyone, not even his wife Reiko. Gondo's son Jun is playing with his friend Shinichi at "Sheriff and Outlaw", and Gondo encourages him to kill, not to lose. Later he receives a mysterious phone call from Osaka and orders his right-hand man Kawanishi to fly immediately to Osaka. Gondo now reveals that he has mortgaged everything that he owns in order to raise the capital needed to become the major stockholder of the firm and therefore its president. He still needs to find a huge sum of money but he is confident that, once he is president, he will raise it. His wife Reiko is terrified upon hearing that he mortgaged everything they own. Gondo is instructing his chaffeur Aoki to take Kawanishi to the airport when a new phone call informs him that his son Jun has been kidnapped: the kidnapper is asking for a huge ransom. Gondo and his wife Reiko are already panicking when Jun appears, smiling and unharmed: the kidnappers kidnapped Shinichi by mistake because the two children had just exchanged outfits. Gondo, who didn't want to call the police for his son, immediately calls the police for Shinichi, trusting that the criminals will realize their mistake. The cops show up disguised as food delivery boys. Police inspector Tokura installs a device to listen on Gondo's phone and informs him that saving the child is his priority. He also mentions that the ransom asked by the kidnapper is ten times higher than the highest ever recorded. Meanwhile chaffeur Aoki, a widower, is sitting silently, devastated. The kidnapper calls again and admits his mistake but still demands the money. Gondo is shocked that someone wants him to pay an astronomical amount of money for someone else's son. He refuses to pay. His wife Reiko is tempted to pay, but Kawanishi reminds her that Gondo mortgaged everything: if he pays the ransom instead of acquiring control of the firm, he and his family will be ruined. Gondo stops Kawanishi from flying to Osaka and spends the night thinking about it. In the morning he has decided not to pay but his wife Reiko begs him to pay because she can't bear Aoki's grief. His wife, the daughter of rich parents who has always lived in luxury, swears that she doesn't mind living in poverty. Gondo, who instead was a poor shoemaker, doesn't believe her and in any case he doesn't want to condemn his son to a life of poverty. However, Kawanishi has changed his mind too: he tells Gondo that people will stop buying his shoes once the newspapers describe him as a selfish rich man who let a child die. Gondo is surprised by Kawanishi's new opinion and accuses him of conspiring against him. Kawanishi confesses that he has informed Baba's group and the president of Gondo's plan to take over. He did so because his own future was in the hands of Gondo: if Gondo pays the ransom and fails, Kawanishi fails too. It is safer for him to ally with Gondo's enemies, and then convince Gondo to fail for real. The police inspector is the only one to side with Gondo. He asks him to tell the kidnapper that he will pay, but only so that they agree on a meeting place and allow the police to catch the kidnapper. The kidnapper tells him to put the money in two briefcases and take a train. The policemen board the train with him, ready to catch the kidnapper at whatever station they meet, but the kidnapper instructs Gondo to throw the briefcases from the window of the train when passing a bridge. There is no way to stop the train. The cops can only make a video of the scene. The kidnappers walks away with the briefcases. Shinichi is released, and inspector Tokura, who now admires Gondo, swears that he will catch the kidnapper. Based on a phone call in which the kidnapper said that he could see Gondo's hilltop villa from the town, the cops explore the town to find a place where the kidnapper could have spied clearly on the villa. The camera leaves them and follows a young man who walks into a narrow alley and enters a narrow room. He opens the newspaper to read the details of the kidnapping. He turns on the radio and hears a commentator hailing Gondo as a hero. Meanwhile, the cops interrogate a farmer and identify the kind of car that the kidnapper drove. Shinichi recalls seeing Mt Fuji and the sea from the kidnapper's room. The cops narrow down the location. Because Shinichi remembers the smell of ether, the cops conclude that the kidnapper must be either a doctor, a pharmacist or a medical student. The car is identified as a stolen car and found abandoned. The public eagerly collaborates with the investigation because of the outpour of sympathy for Gondo, and one person tells the police of a man driving a car with a boy wearing a cowboy hat in the back seat. The creditors have no mercy though and prepare to seize his assets if he doesn't return what he borrowed. The firm's directors have no mercy either: Gondo loses his job. By playing the tapes of the kidnapper's phone calls, the cops find out details like the sound of a trolley. Aoki, who wants to help with the investigations, takes Shinichi for a drive and Shinichi slowly recognizes landmarks. Two cops catch up with them just when Shinichi finds the place where he was kept prisoner. Inside they find the two people who Shinichi remembers as "uncle" and "auntie"... both dead. The police determine that the two were killed by an overdose of heroin. Because they were both experienced addicts, inspector Tokura suspects that they were given a lethal kind of drug by someone who wanted them dead, probably because they were blackmailing him. They also recover a little bit of the money that was hiding there. Tokura convences a press conference but then asks the journalists to print a different story: that one note of the ransom was spent. This fake story is meant to convince the kidnapper that his accomplices (and witnesses) are still alive. Meanwhile the press also publicizes the fact that the shoe factory has fired the heroic Gondo, causing consumers to boycott the firm. Sure enough, Kawanishi is sent to restore Gondo to a honorary position, but Gondo doesn't want a power-less position and kicks him out. Meanwhile, the kidnapper, panicking, transfers the money from the two briefcases to a bag, and burns the briefcases. The police had inserted vials of a pink substance into them and the pink smoke alerts the cops who rush to interview the man running the incinerator. The man remembers who gave him the briefcases: a medical intern at a nearby hospital. The cops mount guard at the hospital and eventually find a young man named Ginjiro who corresponds to the description of Shinichi. Tokura, however, is not ready to arrest him because he wants to arrest him for murdering two people, not for kidnapping a child: Tokura wants him sentenced to death, not to prison. Therefore Tokura prepares a blackmail note signed by the two dead people and has it delivered to Ginjiro at the hospital, hoping that he will try again to kill them. The cops follow him in the busy streets of the city for hours until he enters a night-club full of Westerners. He dances with a woman but then simply walks out in an alley full of derelict drug addicts, followed by cops who now pretend to be junkies themselves. He checks out the junkies and eventually approaches a lady who can barely stand up because she is having a crisis of withdrawal. He gives her his heroin and it kills her. Tokura, informed via radio by his undercover agents, understands that he simply tested his heroin to make sure it was lethal. The cops keep following him and see him waiting in front of a shoe store and are shocked to see him casually offer a cigarette to Gongo, who happens to be staring at the window of the store. Finally, Ginjiro enters the house of the accomplices (while the soundtrack plays a Caribbean-tinged instrumental version of "O Sole Mio") and the cops arrest him for homicide. They also recover most of Gondo's ransom money. But they deliver the news to Gondo just when the creditors are auctioning Gondo's home and furniture, with Aoki crying in a corner. Ginjiro is sentenced to death. He asks to see Gondo, and Gondo visits him in jail. Gondo is now a shoemaker again, competing with his old firm. Ginjiro feels no remorse. He explains to Gondo how he felt all those years staring at Gondo's villa up the hill while freezing in his small ugly room. He is not afraid of hell because his whole life was hell. But then he starts shaking and screaming, and the guards take him away.

Il film scorre maestoso attraverso regioni del cinema americano classico (l'indagine, il pedinamento, tutto ciò che è poliziesco) e cinema giapponese "oyabun-kobun", attraverso la letteratura psicologica russa e la letteratura patetica (del sacrificio) giapponese, attraverso una angosciante paralisi della claustrofobia, della mania di persecuzione, del sadismo e della solitudine, condensata nella tormentata personalità del vile e spregevole che è però anche (e soprattutto?) una vittima della società (vittima e persecutore si riflettono l'un l'altro e si scambiano continuamente di ruolo).

 

 

9. Aka hige

 

 

l'attività del regista si dirada sensibilmente a causa di controversie con i produttori.

The lenghty (three hours) Aka Hige/ Red Beard (1965) is both the history of a sentimental education, a majestic populistic evocation of a legendary era and a sequence of moral parables, a story made of stories. Through the parables narrated by the various patients and the example of the stoic doctor, the young, vain and privileged man is acquainted with the world of everyday cruelty and poverty that he never experienced, and realizes that his duty is not to aim for a courtly career but to help the sick. It is a charming didactic film, that mixes the spirit of Dickens and Chaplin with Japanese values of loyalty, devotion and honesty. It blends meticulous historical reconstruction and allegorical scene composition worthy of Renaissance painters. The film spans three seasons: it opens in the fall, when the trees have lost their leaves, and ends in the spring, when the trees are beginning to blossom.

During Japan's feudal 18th century, a young doctor, Noboru Yasumoto, enters a clinic. The departing doctor tells him that the situation is terrible and takes him for a tour of the spare and smelly rooms, that are packed with poor patients, too poor even to buy medicines. One of them complains that they would be better off dead. The departing doctor tells him that the head doctor "Red Beard" runs the place like a dictator, with strict rules for everything. There isn't even money to buy coal for heating. Yasumoto meets his new boss, Kyojo Niide, aka "Red Beard" (played by Toshiro Mifune). Yasumoto has been told to pay a visit, not to stay there permanently, but Red Beard tells him that he is not to return to his city and his belongings are coming. It's almost as if the young doctor has been kidnapped. Yasumoto protests in vain that he has studied at a Western school to become the shogun's doctor, succeeding his father's friend Amano. Yasumoto starts to run away but stops when he sees the maid Osugi caring for a woman who is suffering from some kind of fit. The departing doctor warns him that the beautiful madwoman has already seduced and killed three men, and so she is kept prisoner in her house by her own wealthy father. They announce that Chigusa's sister Masae has come to see Yasumoto, but he refuses to see her, so we don't learn what this is about. Red Beard is eager to read the notes of his studies, but Yasumoto refuses, just like he refuses to wear the clinic's uniform. He is determined to be such a pain for Red Beard that Red Beard himself will dismiss him. The arrogant Yasumoto even refuses to treat the patients, but he is interested in the madwoman because that's an unusual case. Yasumoto reveals to the maid Osugi that he is immune to the madwoman's looks because he was betrayed once by a woman. One day Osugi comes screaming that her mistress has run away. The beautiful madwoman comes to look for shelter in Yasumoto's room and she tell him that, when she was nine years old, she was sexually abused by a man, and then again another man abused her when she was eleven, and then again another man abused her when she was 17. She hugs him and then he realizes that she is trying to stab him in the neck. He is saved by Red Beard. Later, Red Beard asks Yasumoto to examine an old man who is dying of a rare liver cancer, and tells Yasumoto to watch him until the end because a person's death is a holy moment, even of a poor man who has been abandoned by everybody. Then Red Beard calls Yasumoto to assist in a surgical operation and Yasumoto faints, proving how inexperienced he is. Meanwhile, a generous man named Sahachi, who has worked for the other patients and thus ignored his own health, has gotten terminal ill. All the other patients come to wish him well. The dying Sahachi reproaches Yasumoto for not wearing the uniform and asks one last favor: to be sent home. Red Beard is busy with the daughter of the man who just died: Red Beard guessed that the old man was carrying a terrible secret, even if he couldn't speak. The woman, Okuni, tells the harrowing story of how her mother took her father's young assistant for her lover and then married him to Okuni, who had three children from him. Her father offered to help her but she sent him away, ashamed. Her mother died and Okuni's husband became abusive. Now she wounded him with a knife and came to look for help from her father, taking her children with her. Red Beard finds a home for the woman and her three children. Yasumoto now admires the gruff Red Beard. Meanwhile, the delirious Sahachi keeps talking to a woman, but his friends know that he never had a woman. Again, Red Beard guesses that the good Sahachi, who was always so generous with everybody, kept a terrible secret. It is raining heavily. A landslide reveals a skeleton. Sahachi confesses that it is the skeleton of his wife. He calls all his friends around him and confesses what happened. He fell in love with the beautiful girl but the girl, from a numerous and poor family, was bonded as a servant to a family. She eventually accepted to run away and marry him, but she disappeared after an earthquake that destroyed the town. He assumed that she had died but two years later he saw her, carrying a baby, another man's child. She confessed that her parents, before she met him, had already betrothed her to a young man who had helped her family. When the earthquake destroyed their home, she assumed that it was punishment for having betrayed her family and that young man, and she let Sahachi think that she died in the earthquake and went home to marry that young man and make her family happy. After confessing all of this to Sahachi, she killed herself by pointing a knife to her own belly and hugging him. He then buried her in the place where the landslide revealed her skeleton. Sahachi then spent his life doing good to others in her memory. Now he is happy to die and be reunited with her. Finally, Yasumoto accepts to wear the medical uniform. Red Beard takes him to see the outpatients. Yasumoto learns that the government has cut the funds for visiting outpatients but Red Beard refuses to abandon them. The mysterious Masae who had tried to see him in his early days at the clinic shows up unannounced asking Yasumoto to forgive her sister Chigusa, but he simply walks away. A woman carrying a baby runs after him in a panic because her baby has a high fever and their village doctor won't help her: she still owes the village doctor money. Yasumoto diagnoses measles and sends her to his clinic. Yasumoto then joins Red Beard who is examining a rich lord. The rich man got sick because he is overweight and Red Beard prescribes a strict diet. Then he overcharges the rich man. Yasumoto tells Red Beard that his fiance broke their engagement as they visit a brothel where a geisha has syphilis. The madame is flogging a 12-year-old girl because she refuses to "entertain" customers. The madame's reason is that Otoyo is an orphan and she took her in out of charity. The doctor wants to take the girl away because she has a high fever. The madame then calls for help and a group of strong men come to threaten the doctor. The doctor fights them alone and injures all of them like a professional samurai. Red Beard and Yasumoto walk out carrying the feverish girl who has fainted. Yasumoto is assigned to take care of the girl, who is not only sick but also traumatized. In fact, when Yasumoto falls asleep, Otoyo starts scrubbing the floor like she was doing at the brothel, despite still being feverish. The girl refuses to speak and to take the medicines that she needs, behaving like a wild animal. Red Beard shows an infinite amount of patience and eventually overcomes her fear and she finally begins to speak. She has never experienced kind people after her mother died and distrusts everybody. By being ungrateful to Yasumoto, who is trying to feed her, she makes him cry. Otoyo disappears again a few days later and Yasumoto looks for her all over town. He finds her begging in the streets, and sees that she uses the money to buy a bowl to replace the one she broke at the clinic. She finally recovers from her trauma and her fever. Red Beard confesses to Yasumoto that he, Red Beard, schemed to have Yasumoto confined at the clinic. Yasumoto thought that it was Amano, the father of his fiance Chigusa, who schemed against him. Remembering the disadventures of the patients who died, he feels ashamed of himself, of his own vanity and selfishness. As Yasumoto breaks down in tears, Red Beard realizes that the young man has got a high fever himself. Now it is Otoyo who starts taking care of Yasumoto. She is still scrubbing the floor, but this time it's for his room. Outside it's snowing. As he recovers, Yasumoto is happy to see that Otoyo started reading his medical books. Meanwhile, Masae has been taking care of Yasumoto's mother, who too fell ill. Yasumoto visits his mother and learns that his ex-fiance Chigusa just had a child from another man: her father Amano never forgave her for cheating on Yasumoto but now would like to make peace with her. His mother loves the kind Masae, Chigusa's younger daughter, and would like Yasumoto to marry her. Masae gives Yasumoto a gift for Otoyo but Otoyo shocks everybody by throwing it in the mud. The maid Osugi easily guesses that Otoyo is jealous of Masae. Osugi herself is in love with Yasumoto's colleague Mori. Otoyo is mute again. She doesn't even stop a little boy who steals hot gruel from the clinic right in front of her, causing more shock among the staff. The women of the clinic try to catch the little thief but he is fast like a rat. Later Yasumoto overhears a conversation between Masae and the child, Chobo: Masae condemns stealing but forgives it because Chobo is hungry and has two hungry brothers. In fact, she even offers to bring him more food (her own dinner) if he promises never to steal again. While Osugi is chatting with Mori, the madwoman tries to hang herself. Her father is ready to punish the maid, who is feeling guilty anyway, for having neglected his daughter, but Red Beard has a different opinion: the madwoman is improving and that's why she tried to hang herself, and the one who should feel ashamed is the rich father, who never cared for her. The father then has to forgive Osugi. One day the brothel's madame shows up to reclaim Otoyo, but the women of the clinic, the same ones who used to be shocked by Otoyo's bad manners, protect Otoyo and kick out the evil madame. Otoyo secretly brings food to Chobo, but the little child suddenly refuses it, claiming the family is moving to a better place where they won't need food. Red Beard brings good news to Yasumoto: his father's friend Amano (Chigusa's and Masae's father) has succeeded in securing Yasumoto the post of shogun's new doctor, and Amano now offers Yasumoto to marry his younger daughter Masae. Now it's Yasumoto who refuses to leave the clinic: he wants to remain and help Red Beard run his derelict clinic. Chobo's family is brought into the clinic: they poisoned themselves with rat poison to end their misery. Chobo's mother begs the doctor to let them die. Otoyo and the other women scream Chobo's name in a well, an act that, according to ancient superstition, will save him from dying. Red Beard tells Yasumoto that the child will live. The snow is melting. It is now spring. Yasumoto accepts to marry Masae but on condition that he remains at the clinic instead of becoming the shogun's doctor, which means that they will be poor. Yasumoto forgives Chigusa who can now be welcomed again by her father Amano. Red Beard tries in vain to dissuade Yasumoto, and the film ends at the same gate where it had begun.

Il film è un vasto affresco populista e un estenuante esercizio di introspezione: nell'ospedale sfilano tipi orrendi, colti in scene feroci (il tisico che morde l'aria come una gallina, la donna che strilla sul tavolo operatorio come una bestia al macello) e teneramente ritratte attraverso flashback rinforzati da calamità naturali.

 

 

10. Dodeskaden

 

 

Dopo cinque anni di inattività forzata, Kurosawa diresse un tour de force degno di Ichichi-nin no Samurai, un film d'ambiente contemporaneo intitolato Dodeskaden (1970), della durata di quattro ore circa, realizzato peraltro in soli 28 giorni con la collaborazione di Kobayashi, Ichikawa, Kinoshita.

l'ispirazione veniva ancora dalla letteratura dei bassifondi (Gorkij, e Hugo de I miserabili ma in chiave esistenziale e antinaturalista), dal cinema delle buone intenzioni italiane (l'accampamento di barboni di Miracolo a Milano di de Sica, il populismo moralista) e dal populismo umanitario che è ormai la costante "civile" della sua filmografia.

Ai margini del Giappone del "boom", in una bidonville abbandonata, vive una comunità di derelitti e di disgraziati; i poveri (che nell'accezione "zavattiniana" sono anche matti) trasformano la loro tragedia collettiva in una patetica opera buffa, sul palcoscenico della quale si rincorrono le macchiette più pittoresche, dall'uomo d'affari che ha tolto il saluto alla moglie infedele all'impiegato spastico che deve sopportare una moglie bisbetica, dal barbone che vive in una carcassa di auto e che lascia morire il figlio intossicato alla ragazza violentata dallo zio che vorrebbe uccidere il fidanzato e suicidarsi, dal vecchio filosofo artigiano imperturbabile che rifiuta di denunciare un ladro e salva dal suicidio un vecchio all'imbecille che mima un tram riproducendo con le labbra lo sferragliare sulle rotaie ("dodeskaden" appunto).

Nonostante i virtuosismi pittorici e l'impegno registico l'affresco del sottosviluppo non giova a Kurosawa, il quale, più che mai osteggiato dai produttori, tenta due volte il suicidio.

 

 

11. Dersu Uszala

Soltanto nel 1975 può dirigere un nuovo film ma in Unione Sovietica: Dersu Uszala (1975). Durante il viaggio attraverso lande ancora incontaminate dalla civiltà l'esploratore resta affascinato dalla personalità del cacciatore, abilissimo interprete della natura e saggio maestro di vita che vive in perfetta simbiosi con la natura. I due si salvano la vita a vicenda; poi si separano, ma si ritrovano cinque anni dopo. Il vecchio cacciatore sta diventando cieco e l'esploratore lo invita ad abbandonare la foresta, dove sarebbe facile preda di belve e banditi; Uszala lo segue in città, ma trovandosi troppo a disagio, preferisce tornare indietro; l'amico, rammaricandosi della sua decisione, gli regala un fucile modernissimo; ed è proprio per rapinarlo di quell'arma che un brigante gli tende un agguato e lo ammazza. Il primitivo e pagano Uszala è l'esponente di una civiltà fondata su valori ben più alti di quelli distruttivi e materialisti del progresso. La vita stessa di Uszala è un poema tenero e commovente: da quando un'epidemia di vaiolo annientò la sua famiglia condannandolo alla solitudine fino a quando la cecità lo condanna a morte. In mezzo a questi due episodi si distende una vita densa di avventure, di calamità naturali e di pericoli scampati; una vita attraverso la quale il piccolo mongolo ha professato la sua religione della natura, apparentemente un cumulo di assurdi pregiudizi (è terrorizzato dall'idea che lo spirito di una tigre uccisa torni a vendicarsi), ma che è invece una profonda riflessione sul senso ultimo del destino umano. L'umanitarismo e il senso dell'avventura di tanti film del regista trovano in quest'opera un punto di equilibrio quasi mistico, riflesso certo della crisi interiore che sta travagliando l'animo dell'uomo. È in effetti una dura denuncia in forma allegorica del consumismo Giapponese, che sta annientando i valori naturali: lo scempio che il progresso fa della tomba del povero Uszala è un atto di crudeltà che Kurosawa non intende perdonare; la società moderna non ha rispetto per l'Uomo. La sua morte e la sua sepoltura simboleggiano la morte e la sepoltura di un'intera civiltà. La commovente marcia verso la morte di Uszala è contrappuntata dai formidabili paesaggi siberiani, immense distese di ghiaccio, silenzi siderali, bufere devastatrici, foreste incantate, tenebre arcane e luci vergini. Il modo scelto da Kurosawa per parlare del suo "naturalismo umanista" si serve di due procedimenti molto radicati nella letteratura occidentale: il viaggio fantastico alla Jules Verne e il viaggio di iniziazione alla Joseph Conrad. Il cacciatore e l'esploratore sono la stessa persona: la personalità schizofrenica dell'uomo moderno, emarginato, divorato e oltraggiato come uomo dal progresso vorace e insaziabile, ed estenuato dalla lotta quotidiana con la natura inclemente, è dilaniata dalla cocente nostalgia per lo stato libero rousseauiano e dal miraggio conturbante del seducente benessere.

In 1910 a stranger arrives in a workers camp in Siberia, looking for the grave of a friend that he buried there three years earlier. The stranger remembers a forest but the workers are clearing the forest to build a village. A flashback tells us the story of his friend Dersu.
In 1902 a group of Russians marches through the forest. The stranger is an explorer in charge of a topographical survey of the region, escorted by soldiers. At night an old solitary hunter shows up, Dersu, who comes to warm up at their campfire. He is of a Mongol-looking race and speaks bad Russian. He is wondering what people are doing in this remote region. He tells Arsenyev that he doesn't know how old he is and that his entire family is long dead: his wife and children died of smallpox. Arsenyev offers him to be their guide. The following morning he starts leading them and proves that he can read signs in the forest that they cannot. He recognizes tracks of Chinese boots, and he sees bark used to make a roof and guesses that there is a hut nearby. He fixes the roof and then asks Arsenyev to leave food for whoever will come next there. Arsenyev is impressed that the old man cares for someone whom he may never meet. When it rains, he can tell when it's about to stop. Dersu thinks that fire, water and wind are alive. It snows. The soldiers challenge Dersu to shoot at a bottle hanging from a wire. He refuses to destroy a bottle that could be precious and instead shoots the wire and then keeps the bottle for himself. He is a much better shooter than the soldiers and is also conscientious. At night Dersu leaves the group and goes to sing alone Arsenyev spies what he is doing: he is praying for his wife and children, who died in that place. The following day he can tell that an old Chinese man is nearby, and in fact they meet him soon. Dersu talks to him and find out that the old man has been living alone for 40 years in that place after his brother stole his wife. Dersu can even guess what the old silent man is thinking of. Arsenyev takes only two men and Dersu to explore a frozen lake, sending the soldiers to wait for them in a town. They reach it on a canoe and then on foot. Dersu is scared by the wind. Sure enough a blizzard blows through the lake and erases their footprints. The wind stops, but they are lost and freezing, and it's getting dark. Dersu tells Arsenyed that they will die if they don't build a shelter and teaches him how to use tall grass to build one. The blizzard picks up strength again after sunset, and Arsenyev collapses unconscious, but Dersu drags him to the improvised hut and thus saves his life. The following morning Arsenyev's men find them, and the quartet can resume their journey on foot. One night Dersu smells smoke and they find the hut of a silent Eskimo family that offers them a warm meal. Dersu asks Arsenyev where to next. Arsenyev tells him that they need to rejoin their soldiers in town and then head for the big city, Vladivostok. Arsenyev asks Dersu to come with them and enjoy the comforts of city life, but Dersu prefers to remain in the forest and keep hunting for sable and deer. The following morning he takes the three Russians to the railway tracks and then leaves alone. Arsenyev and his two men walk along the railway tracks to town.
In the spring of 1907 Arsenyev leads another expedition in the frozen region of Siberia. One day a man runs into a solitary hunter and tells Arsenyev, who immediately runs in the forest hoping that he's Dersu. They meet again and hug like brothers. The other men of the expedition are amused by the eccentric old hunter. Dersu tells Arsenyev that he made a lot of money hunting sable but an evil merchant cheated him of all of it. Arsenyev hires him again as their guide. One day they are walking in a foggy forest and Dersu suddenly realizes that a tiger has been following them. He shouts to the tiger to go away. Dersu realizes that someone has littered the area with traps for animals and they find several, some alive and some dead, that fell into them. While they are eating, they hear several shots. Dersu sees eight men and guesses they are Chinese bandits. He also guesses they have kidnapped three women. Then they find three men left to die in a river, and save them. A group of villagers appear: they are chasing the Chinese bandits and say that they don't need help. Arsenyev's expedition moves on. Arsenyev and Dersu try to cross a big river on an improvised raft, but the current drags them away. Dersu pushes Arsenyev out the raft into the river so he can swim to shore while Dersu clings to a tree just before the rapids that would kill him. Dersu shouts to cut a tree that he can use to reach shore, and it works. They continue their exploration and a photographer takes several pictures of Dersu. One day Dersu again senses the presence of a tiger. He shouts in vain at the tiger to go away. The tiger keeps getting closer until Dersu has no choice but to shoot it. The tiger, wounded, disappears, but Dersu is scared that the spirit of the forest will send another one for revenge. One day a soldier takes down a mysterious sign from a tree and Dersu gets angry: it's a marker to find ginseng, left by a farmer. Dersu gets angry again at the soldiers when they throw meat in the fire. Dersu is no longer the jovial good-hearted fellow of the beginning. Winter is coming again. Dersu and Arsenyev walk in a snowy forest, chasing a wild beast, and Arsenyev realizes that Dersu doesn't see well anymore: he is losing his eyesight. Dersu is terrified: he cannot survive in the forest if he cannot shoot straight. He gets on his knees and cries. Arsenyev asks him to move in with him in the city. One night a tiger walks into their camp, and this further terrorizes Dersu, convinced that the tiger is after him. Dersu accepts to move to the city with Arsenyev, who meditates that maybe now Dersu is simply afraid of the wilderness.
Dersu moves in with Arsenyev, his wife and their child. Their child uses a gramophone to record the voice of Dersu. Dersu walks around town still dressed like a hunter but Arsenyev's wife explains to him that shooting is not allowed in town. It is snowing again outside. Dersu feels in a prison. He would like to build a hut outside but Arsenyev explains that it is not allowed. Dersu even get arrested for chopping trees in the city park like in his old forest. Humiliated, he sits in a corner of Arsenyev's house. He wants to go back to his land. As a farewell gift, Arsenyev gives him a new rifle that will make it easier to shoot even with a fading eyesight.
One day Arsenyev receives a telegram that asks him to identify the dead body of an unknown murdered man who had Arsenyev's business card in his pocket. Arsenyev arrives when they are already digging the grave, and recognizes him as Dersu . When Arsenyev mentions that Dersu was a hunter, the officer informs him that no rifle was found near the body, which probably means that Dersu was murdered to steal his new rifle. The gravediggers are digging the grave in the place where the film started.

12. Kagemusha

Altri cinque anni devono passare prima che esca Kagemusha/ The Shadow Warrior (1980), a historical costume movie set in Japan's ancient Sengoku period, at the beginning of the gunpowder era, and based on real events, un'epopea tragicomica ambientata nel periodo delle lotte feudali del 1600 in cui Kurosawa dispiega ancora una volta i suoi temi preferiti (psicologismo dovstoevskiano, relatività "pirandelliana", Hollywood-ismo spettacolare, ironia e truculenza, montaggio avvincente, fotografia pittorica), investiti di Ejzenstein-iana solennità nelle scene di massa (affreschi rinascimentali di bestie stramazzate e di soldati trucidati). Dal punto di vista visuale, e` uno dei suoi film piu` barocchi, with giant frescoes of marching troops, peaking perhaps with the lengthy oneiric sequence. But the film is too long and too slow. The battle scenes are grandiose but also tedious.

His brother Nobukado tells lord Shingen that he just found the perfect double for him: a thief, possibly a killer, who was about to be executed after refusing to confess under torture. The thief implies that the lord is a bigger criminal than him, and the lord admits that he banished his own father and killed his own son, but he feels justified by the need to unify the nation. The lord likes the rebellious spirit of the thief and saves his life. A soldier runs frantically through resting troops and delivers a message to a war council presided by the lord's son, Katsuyori: they have successfully cut the aqueduct to the castle of their enemy Tokugawa Ieyasu, who has been resisting for 20 days. Their troops, however, are seduced by someone who plays the flute every night. An old man riding a horse enters the compound of lord Shingen, revered by the guards. He is Masakage Yamagata, an old adviser. The lord is angry that his ally Asakura is withdrawing his troops because they are exhausted, but the adviser scolds him for getting upset so easily. The old man predicts that the fate of the castle will be announced by the flute: if the flute plays, the castly will hold on even without any water. The lord wants to hear for himself whether the flute is played and sits with the soldiers near the walls of the castle. However, his tent is easily located by an enemy sniper that shoots and wounds him fatally. Told the news, his enemy Tokugawa Ieyasu mourns the great warrior. On the other hand, Tokugawa's powerful ally Oda Nobunaga rejoices because Shingen was the only obstacle to his ambitions. However there is still uncertainty over the death. Shingen's soldiers withdraw. Shingen is still alive and orders his cabinet and his brother to keep his death secret for three years and to keep the peace. Someone in Tokugawa Ieyasu's camp guesses that their enemy is keeping Shingen's death secret. Shingen in fact dies. Nobukado, who has been the double for Shingen on the battlefield, reveals the existence of a real double and the cabinet accepts to have him impersonate the dead lord, a "kagemusha". Spies from both Ieyasu and Nobunaga witness the arrival of lord Shingen to review his troops. The Nobunaga spy is puzzled because he saw that they killed the people who were with Shingen when he was dying (those are the only people who knew the truth). The thief doesn't know that the real lord is already dead. He finds out when one night he tries to steal precious stones from an amphor and finds Shingen's body preserved inside. The thief refuses to continue the charade, even faced with the prospect of execution. The old advisor, however, convinces the cabinet to simply release the thief, after telling him that they will bury the dead Shingen in a lake. The following day they drop the amphor in the lake. Spies from both Ieyasu and Nobunaga witness the burial and realize that Shingen is dead. The thief overhears the spies and rushes to tell the cabinet that the enemies will soon know of Shingen's death. The cabinet, however, tells the thief that they have decided to announce the death. The thief now feels patriotic and asks to be reinstated as the kagemusha. Then the cabinet spreads the rumor that the amphor contains sake, an offering to the gods, and the spies hear the rumor. The spies then watch as the kagemusha attends a noh performance, still uncertain about the truth. The kagemusha is now devoted to the part and even fools Shingen's grandson, which was the ultimate test of his skills as an impersonator. This boy, Takemaru, is the son of Shingen's Katsuyori: Shingen chose the boy, not his son, as his heir. Nobukado coaches the kagemusha so that he increasingly behaves like the real Shingen. In particular, the kagemusha and the grandson are increasingly attached, as if he were really his grandfather. The lord's concubines are the only ones who notice that the kagemusha looks different. He confesses to them that he is just an impersonator, but they burst out laughing, not believing him. Even when told that Shingen is alive, Tokugawa Ieyasu is puzzled because Shingen gave up his chance to take the capital. Tokugawa Ieyasu decides to attack one of Shingen's allies to test Shingen's reaction. Nobukado informs the kagemusha that a war council is going to meet soon, and asks the kagemusha to simply approve what he, Nobukado, decides. After much deliberation, Shingen's son Katsuyori, who is in favor of attacking the enemy, and cannot convince the other senior members, decides to disrupt the council by addressing the kagemusha as if he were the real Shingen, asking him to make a final decision. The other senior members (the ones who know that the kagemusha is not the real Shingen) are alarmed by this move but the kagemusha, who has learned to impersonate the dead Shingen in minute details, responds like a real leader, and decides against Katsuyori. Katsuyori rides away furious. The kagemusha has nightmares of the real Shingen resurrecting and chasing him (a lengthy oneiric sequence). Oda Nobunaga is marching out of his magnificent castle, blessed by three Christian priests, to attack a fortress. He sends a messenger to Tokugawa Ieyasu asking him to attack Shingen, the only way to prove whether Shingen is alive or dead. He also suggests to send a one of the foreign priests, who is a man of medicine, to visit Shingen, convincing Shingen's banished father Nobutora to be the sender. While the kagemusha spends his time playing with the boy Takemaru, Katsuyori organizes the defense without consulting the elderly. The elderly realize that they have no choice but to pretend that Shingen is backing Katsuyori. Just then the messenger from Nobutora arrives escorting the foreign priest. Nobukado guesses that it is a trick to find out whether Shingen is alive, but he allows the visit to proceed and the kagemusha is convincing enough. Later Shingen leads the troops to protect Katsuyori's troops that are fighting Tokugawa Ieyasu's troops. Katsuyori is not happy to see him because he wants to win the battle by himself. Nobukado tells the kagemusha to just watch and don't move. The kagemusha obeys and sits without moving while soldiers are killed around him. Loyal bodyguards die protecting him with their bodies from enemy fire during the lenghty battle scene. The two events combined prove beyond any doubt to Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu that the feared Shingen is still alive. One year and a half has gone by, and both Katsuyori and his uncle Nobukado are unhappy. Katsuyori is furious because the credit for the triumph against Tokugawa Ieyasu goes to his father Shingen, whose troops came to help him; and Nobukado feels that Shingen's spirit possesses the kagemusha who has become so good at impersonating the dead lord, but Nobukado is saddened by the thought that soon, at the end of the three years, they will have to tell Takemaru that the kagemusha is not his real grandfather, and they will have to dispose altogether of the kagemusha once it is known that Shingen is dead and the kagemusha is just an impostor. The kagemusha solves the problem by doing something really stupid: he tries to mount Shingen's horse, the horse kicks him out, the mistresses see that he does not have Shigen's battle scars, they tell Takemaru that he is an impostor, and the kagemusha is expelled from Shingen's palace and has to walk away alone in the rain while soldiers throw stones at him. Katsuyori confronts Nobukado: now that Shingen's death cannot be hidden anymore, he wants the command. Sincerely attached to Takemaru, the former kagemusha watches from the gate, mixed with all the paesants, when a funeral is held for Shingen: he simply wants to see his beloved Takemaru. Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu attack and destroy the army of the proud but reckless Katsuyori, who doesn't listen to the advice of the elderly (the Battle of Nagashino). The former kagemusha, dressed like a tramp, follows the battle from a distance, still feeling loyalty to the dead man that he impersonated and sensing that this will be a massacre. Watching the battlefield covered with dead bodies of his old army, the desperate thief grabs a spear and tries to charge towards the enemy's barricade. He is easily shot after a few steps. Mortally wounded, he walks into a river where he sees Shingen's flag sinking in the waters. He tries to grab it with his last energies but dies and his body floats past the flag. Il personaggio, tipico derivato dei samurai avventurieri e giullareschi delle saghe sui samurai, attraversa una crisi di identità, che è da un lato quella del burocrate alla ricerca di uno scopo nella vita (I-kiru) e dall'altro quella del Dersu Uszala che percepisce il senso di un rito eterno.

Il grottesco gioco del potere si mescola allo sdoppiamento dovstoevskiano (Il sosia ispira gli incubi notturni del ladro), al dualismo pirandelliano fra realtà e apparenza, al cavalleresco comico ariostesco, nonchè la vocazione all'autodistruzione, a tutto il background culturale acquisito da Kurosawa in trent'anni di cinema.

Ran (1985) is a variation on Shakespeare's "King Lear", but, more importantly, is a visual poem. Every scene, whether an intimate meeting in a spare room or a spectacular battle scene between two raging armies, is an elegant and colorful painting. There are two main differences between Ran and "King Lear". Hidetora was a brutal warrior who spent 50 years killing and conquering, and is now surrounded by the ghosts of those massacres. Kurosawa creates an odd mixture of compassion and disgust for this old man. He obviously deserves no mercy, but the whole movie is about his suffering. Lady Kaede does not even exist in Shakespeare's play. She is a highly-efficient heartless monster who is determined to achieve her goal of revenge. Kurosawa depicts her as the ultimate evil, but rationally she is just carrying out justice. She embodies the desire of revenge of all the victims of Hidetora's ruthless campaigns. If there is something terribly human about Hidetora's brutality, his fall from power and his madness, there is also something terrifyingly superhuman about Kaede's drive to exact justice.

A hunting party in a vast plateau is the pretext to bring together three warring clans. The aging Hidetora, the host, and the head of the most powerful clan, holds a banquet to honor his two guests, the heads of the other clans. Both the guests offer one of their daughters as wife for Hidetora's youngest son, Saburo. Whichever he chooses he will upset the other. Then Hidetora falls asleep, embarrassing his sons. When he wakes up after having a terrifying decision, he feels that the time has come to hand over power after 50 years of waging wars that have vastly expanded his kingdom. He summons everybody and in the green field he announces that he is leaving his reign to his eldest son Taro, and one castle each to his two other sons, Jiro and Saburo, who are to pledge allegiance forever to Taro. All he asks is to be allowed to visit their castles every now and then. Saburo does not like the idea: he thinks that the three brothers are not united at all and will soon attack each other to gain the entire kingdom. Saburo calls his father "senile" for believing in the fairy tale that the three brothers will always help each other. His father gets angry and banishes him from the kingdom. Hidetora's advisor Tango sides with the kid, begging the old man to realize that the kid is telling the truth. Tango get banished too. Tango and Saburo are later approached by the head of one of the rival clans: he wants Saburo for son-in-law and Tango to work for him. Tango refuses, loyal to his lord even after that lord has banished him.
Taro's wife Kaede takes possession of the castle with arrogance. She humiliates the concubines of Hidetora when they are leaving the castle, and then she asks Hidetora to sit on the floor lower than her. She is a cold revenge machine: the castle used to belong to her father, Hidetora killed him and all her brothers, and her mother committed suicide. Now she is the queen of the castle, and Hidetora is nobody. She incites her husband Taro to summon Hidetora and force him to sign a pledge so that all power will be in Taro's hands. Hidetora refuses and decides to move to Jiro's castle.
Jiro is jealous of Taro. Just because he was born one year later, Jiro has to be a subject of Taro forever. He doesn't want to accept this twisted logic, especially since his brother is notoriously weak and it's really his wife Kaede who runs the show. When Hidetora arrives at Jiro's castle, he asks to see his wife Sue first. Hidetora exterminated her family when he conquered their castle, and Sue, a devoted Buddhist, has found peace in her faith but has never abandoned her sad look. That look haunts him. Jiro tells him that he is not welcomed there with his feared escort. Hidetora understands that Jiro wants to get rid of him too, and leaves the castle swearing never to see him again.
Hidetora is now homeless. All the villages have been burned and abandoned. He and his bodyguards have to camp in the prairie. The third castle, originally assigned to Saburo, has been occupied by the troops of Taro because Saburo is staying at the court of the other clan. Hidetora receives help from a loyal Tango, who brings food and begs to be forgiven and hired back. Tango reveals that the villagers left their villages because Taro has decreed the death penalty for anyone who feeds or shelters Hidetora.
Hidetora marches on the third castle and easily walks in. But it is a trap: the joint forces of Taro and Jiro attack him and exterminate his soldiers. His concubines commit suicide or are killed. In the general confusion one of Jiro's trusted men, Kurogane, shoots Taro dead. As the castle burns down, Hidetora walks out. The army of the enemies open up and Hidetora walks out of the castle into the prairie. When Tango and the royal jester Kyoami find him, he has gone insane, haunted by the defeat and by the ghosts of all the people he killed during his life. They take shelter in a ruined castle and find out that the person who lives there is Tsurumaru, Sue's brother. He is blind: Hidetora blinded him when he conquered their castle, that very ruined castle. Nonetheless Tsurumaru is a kind soul and plays the flute for his guests. The flute, a gift from Sue, is his only belonging. The blind man is another ghost that reminds Hidetora of his merciless former self.
Jiro brings the news of Taro's death to Taro's wife Kaede, who never loses her icy, mummy-like composure. Later Kaede visits Jiro and, when they are alone, she pulls out a dagger and threatens to cut his throat if he doesn't confess to being the real murderer of her husband. First she makes a little cut on his throat to prove that she means it, and then she bursts into laughter and tells him that he is too weak to rule the kingdom and that he needs her. She then kisses him and licks the blood that is dripping from his wound. They make love and a new alliance is born. She asks him to kill his wife Sue.
Tango learns that Jiro killed Taro and may soon come and kill Hidetora. Hidetora is reduced to a pathetic senile madman, derided even by his loyal jester Kyoami. Tango advises him to look for help from Saburo, but Hidetora is too proud to beg Saburo after having banished him.
Jiro orders his trusted Kurogane to kill Sue, but Kurogane objects that it is silly to kill a wife just because of a lover's whim. When Kaede in person orders Kurogane to bring Sue's head, he brings them the head of a fox and then tells an allegory about a fox that wreaks havoc around the world, assuming the body of a woman; and he is clearly referring to Kaede. Kaede gets furious with Jiro, who is too weak to even command his own men.
Sue, alerted that she's about to be murdered, flees the castle and takes her blind brother with her. They walk away together. Meanwhile, Hidetora has completely lost his mind and wanders around the old land of Sue's father in the sole company of the jester. The two couples flee through the same bloody land. Eventually, the jester and Hidetora stumble into Sue and Tsurumaru: the old man thinks he is in hell and panics.
His loyal Tango, instead, has gone to ask Saburo for help. Saburo, the only son who truly loved his father, marches towards Jiro's castle demanding his father. Saburo's father-in-law, sensing an opportunity, mobilizes his army in support of Saburo's mission. Jiro has no choice but to mobilize his own army. Now the slightest incident could start a massive war. Before taking off for the border, Jiro receives the advise of the evil Kaede: let's pretend to surrender the old man, follow Jiro, then assassinate both father and son.
The truth is that nobody knows where Hidetora is. Saburo's men find Kyoami crying: he has lost the old man after he panicked. Saburo in person leads the search and eventually finds him. Hidetora is lying down between two rocks, pretending to be in his grave. Hearing Saburo's voice heals his madness. Saburo loads him on his horse and they ride towards the troops. Meanwhile, Jiro's folly has caused a full-fledged battle and Jiro's forces are rapidly outsmarted by the enemy. Jiro has to retreat to the castle. However, the assassins manage to shoot Saburo dead. Hidetora, who was now anticipating a happier future in Saburo's company, dies of heartbreak.
While Jiro's troops are retreating, a knight shows up with a head: it's Sue's head. She has been murdered as Kaede ordered. Kurogane, Jiro's main general, is fed up with Jiro's weakness and Kaede's scheming that are costing them the kingdom. Jiro tries to stop him but Kurogane walks straight to Kaede's room and beheads them in front of Jiro. The enemy troops are storming the castle. Kurogane and Jiro die. Hidetora's body is carried by the troops in solemn funeral. The blind Tsurumaru walks alone where Sue used to pray to Buddha.
Il potere scatena le passioni violente inibite dall'ordine sociale. Kurosawa sembra ammirato e ipnotizzato dalla grandiosità del male e della perfidia umana, dalla suprema malvagità dell'uomo, e non a caso contempla in silenzio la lunga battaglia centrale (l'intera sequenza è muta). Statica, fredda e maestosa, la sua regia indugia nei colori della carneficina senza alcun moto di pudore o pietà. Si comporta come un dio che osservi dall'alto l'insensatezza del mondo umano, lo splendore terrificante della tragedia umana, l'abominio meraviglioso delle passioni incontenibili. Apocalittico, onirico, allucinante, il film è un poema sinfonico che tocca punte di pathos disumane. Ma è anche un trattato astratto sul senso dell'esistenza umana. Il sapiente contrappunto fra suoni, colori e eventi ne fa uno dei capolavori tecnici del cinema.

Yume/ Dreams (1990)

Hachigatsu no Kioshikyoku/ Rhapsody in August (1991)

Madadayo/ Not Yet (1993) fu il suo ultimo film,

Kurosawa e` morto nel 1998.

14. La dignità dell'uomo

 

 

Kurosawa è fin dal principio della sua carriera molto lontano dall'introspezione ascetica di Ozu o di Mizoguchi; un'educazione culturale di stampo occidentale lo attira subito nell'orbita della letteratura europea (Dovstoevskij, Gorkij, Pirandello, Shakespeare, Ariosto in ordine di influenza) e della cinematografia occidentale (Ford, de Sica, Renoir, Ejzenstein, l'horror e il gangster nell'ordine). Alla base della sua opera però sono elementi caratteristici della tradizione giapponese (violenza, ironia, fatalismo), e soprattutto un'autentica personale ispirazione umanitaria volta ad esaltare la dignità dell'Uomo contro tutte le insidie che congiurano per annientarlo, il progresso innanzitutto. Il progresso è responsabile di una società alienante, nella quale l'uomo perde lo stimolo a vivere, tende cioè a vegetare senza scopo.

Gli eroi di Kurosawa sono perciò esseri selvaggi che, vivendo ancora in simbiosi con la natura, uno stile di vita innocente, oppure ribelli che si inventano uno scopo per non morire di inedia morale.

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