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Special Edition, Criterion Collection
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Just as many American studio-era directors found acclaim abroad that was denied them in their home country, by 1980 Akira Kurosawa's reputation outside Japan exceeded his esteem at home. As uncompromising as ever, he found considerable difficulty securing backing for his ambitious projects. Unsure he would be able to film it, the director, an aspiring artist before he entered filmmaking, converted Kagemusha into a series of paintings, and it was partly on the basis of these that he won the financial support of longtime admirers Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. Set in the 16th century, when powerful warlords competed for control of Japan, it offers an examination of the nature of political power and the slipperiness of identity. For some time, Shingen Takeda Tatsuya Nakadai has been able to stay removed from the heat of battle by using his brother Nobukado Tsutomu Yamazaki as a double. As the film opens, Nobukado offers another option, having discovered a condemned thief (also pla
Criterion has put together another impressive and well-deserved package for Kurosawa's late samurai classic Kagemusha. Kagemusha is a visual treat. The only way to view this colorful, epic masterpiece is in widescreen. This newly restored, high-definition 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is stellar and the next best thing to seeing the film in the theater. The audio commentary by Kurosawa scholar, biographer, and fan Stephen Prince is nothing short of excellent. Kagemusha can run a little deep. Unless you are a hardcore Japanese film, history, and symbolism buff, Prince's informative, guiding hand will be much appreciated. The main features on the second disc are the documentaries. In the 19-minute Lucas, Coppola and Kurosawa (2005), George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola discuss how important Kurosawa's films were to their development as directors. When the opportunity arose for them to help Kurosawa produce Kagemusha in the late 1970s, they jumped at the chance to work with him. Both discuss what it was like on the set of Kagemusha, from the perspective of students, producers, and fans watching the master create one of his most powerful films. Also included is an informative 41-minute Japanese "making of" documentary, which is the Kagemusha portion of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It's Wonderful to Create. If you are new to Kurosawa's late period, this Criterion set is an excellent introduction to the last, dreamlike phase of his career. Longtime fans will find loads of new material to explore as well. --Rob Bracco
- Audio commentary by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
- A 40-minute documentary on the making of Kagemusha
- Helping a Master: Coppola, Lucas, and Kagemusha, new video interviews with executive producers Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas
- Image: Kurosawa's Continuity, a new video piece that reconstructs Kagemusha through Kurosawa's paintings and sketches
- A booklet featuring sketches by Japanese film historian Donald Richie
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Were I rating the conversion to Blu-Ray it would be three stars. Not NEARLY as successful as other conversions we've seen -- e.g., ONCE UPON A TIME IN NEW YORK. Definition, then, is not crisp -- but it is quite watchable.
Bottom line if I had the original its not worth the money for me to upgrade to the blue ray version. Again that's a personal choice.
I cannot help but think that Kagemusha's deep feeling comes from the autobiographical: a man (the thief, played by Tatsuya Nakadai) must assume the role of the Lord (or, why not...they say it in the film..."Tenno"...or Emperor...used to describe Kurosaw himself).
Kuroaswa must have wondered, in his time of financial difficulty, after the dismissal of "Dodes-Kaden", after his suicide attempt, after losing his status, during his struggles to find financing for Kagemusha...he must have thought about what it is to assume a role of great authority, and to be dismissed from the role that gave his life meaning.
Tatsuya Nakadai being ejected forcibly from the castle...retainers throwing clods of mud and stones after him, like a stray dog being pelted and driven from the gates of a house...maybe Kurosawa felt that this is how his life had been. He has said, "I am afraid that me minus movies equals nothing". His identity, so involved in the creation of film, in making his meditations and dreams communicated through the medium of film, and the life that grew up around the creation...the friendships, the experiences, the world of making that makes a world...it must have been horrible for him to realize how fragile and easily shattered that world could be!
Federico Fellini once said in an interview that criticism felt somehow impertinent...that his work was a reflection of who he was as a human being, and to judge one's work seemed an insult. I remember this as I think about Kagemusha and the other films of Akira Kurosawa. It is with great humility that I approach my thinking about these films, and would refuse, even if forced, to rank them. That really would be impertinent, and an insult to a life dedicated to the highest good an artist can achieve: an honest look at human experience with the intent of understanding the mysteries of the human heart.