Coming to theatres today, Friday, November 25: MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAI
Steven Okazaki’s tribute to the prolific Japanese actor had its world premiere at Venice last year. Screenings followed at Telluride, London, Kyoto, Mill Valley, Hawaii, Denver, AFI Fest, and Taipei Golden Horse, among other events.
Toshiro Mifune receives a respectful if somewhat inert appreciation in Okazaki’s review of the actor’s career, which included a well-known collaboration with acclaimed auteur Akira Kurosawa which revitalized Japanese cinema in the postwar era. After an intriguing but too brief consideration of early Japanese film history sets the stage, the film begins its surface look at the actor’s career, largely through Keanu Reeves’ uninspired narration as well as from talking heads from admirers like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, collaborators, and family members. While some films receive more room for consideration, notably THRONE OF BLOOD, other classics like RASHOMON are given short shrift. As a whole, the doc feels too insider-baseball, likely to resonate primarily with pre-existing fans of the actor or of Kurosawa.