Toshirô Mifune was an important movie star for those of us, like TrustMovies, who spent their adolescence and early adulthood in the thrall of foreign language films -- the likes of which we'd never before seen in our still-young lives. From 1947 through 1995, the actor made more than 182 movie and television appearances, though his international breakout hit, Rashomon, did not arrive until 1950. (Another of his most acclaimed performances, in Stray Dog, came one year earlier, but that film was not released in the U.S. until 1963.)
MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAI, filmmaker Steven Okazaki (shown at left) gives those of us who revered Mifune -- who was the first and best of the many "strong, silent types" (Clint Eastwood, for example) who followed after him -- the opportunity to learn a lot more than we've previously known about the man, his life and times. Mifune was Japanese, all right, but he was born in China (to Japanese parents) and raised in Dalian. He never actually lived in Japan until he was 21 and WWII was well under way. He served in Japan's military and fell into acting, as so many post-war Japanese did as a way to better survive.
Akira Kurosawa (below, left).
Toho Studios, where many of Mifune's most famous films were made, had little understanding of how to use women in its films. (Yes, Ozu worked elsewhere.) Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese chime in at points with interesting thoughts and opinions.
Strand Releasing, and spoken in English and Japanese (with English subtitles), the documentary opens this Friday, November 25, at the IFC Center in New York City, and on December 2 at Laemmle's Ahrya Fine Arts in Beverly Hills and Landmark's Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It will hit another ten cities over the weeks and months to come and eventually appear in DVD. Click here and then scroll down and click on Screenings in the task bar to see all currently scheduled playdates with theaters and cities listed.