Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Toshiro Mifune And The Teenage Mind

A still from "Rashomon"

When I was a teenager I wanted to be a film snob. This was back before the internet so one had to put effort into learning about things that weren’t in the mass media of the day. Or just forgo the learning, see strange movies, and let the thoughts fly where they may.

University showings of films, revival houses, and eventually VHS cassettes gave me just enough exposure to be obnoxious.

When I got my license in 1981 the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis caught my attention as the definition of cool for foreign, art, and cult films. They would have nightly double features and The Rocky Horror Picture Show screened every weekend.

Often, I would have no knowledge of the film I was about to see, just the desire to see something new, strange, weird. A work not sanitized or glossy, that had not passed through countless marketing feedback sessions. A film oddly stylized and, above all, authentic in an ineffable manner.

In this spirit I saw “Throne of Blood” and the “Seven Samurai” staring Toshiro Mifune. I didn’t immediately become a fan of Akira Kurosawa films, but accepted the premise that Mifune was everything a Japanese hero was supposed to be. Mifune’s absolute control of body and expression made a deep impression. Awesome swordplay was pretty cool, too.

Today I like to pretend I have some concept of Bushido, the code of honor that regulated the conduct of samurai, from watching Mifune’s movies. I accept I have no clue about Bushido but it feels good to hold my face rigid while I make hard decisions.

I realize saying this is equivalent to someone born outside the US claiming she/he knows American culture from an idolization of John Wayne. Sobeit. I celebrate my ignorance. 

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