Mifune: The Last Samurai

I watched CBS This Morning and their chef segment.  Some of Jody Adams’ signature recipes include Baklava wafers with raspberries, lemon curd and Greek yogurt, Grilled citrus octopus, Lobster Bucatini with green and red tomatoes, Saffron peppers with mint and chilis, Hippie salad, and Greek negroni. I went out to do my laundry.  I looked up the American Top 40 playlist for the weekend.  The Top 10 songs on December 7, 1974 were “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything,” “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy),” “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” “My Melody of Love,” “Angie Baby,” “Cat’s in the Cradle,” “Do It (‘Till You’re Satisfied),” “When Will I See You Again,” “I Can Help,” and “Kung Fu Fighting.”  I looked around for a Blondie’s Pizza T-shirt and bought one for eight dollars, and then I went into the record store to buy used copies of the first season of Downton Abbey and Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha” on CD.  After taking a nap and watching Donald Trump talking with the television broadcasters during the Army-Navy game, I walked over to the theatre to see “Mifune: The Last Samurai,” a documentary on the life of Toshiro Mifune.  The director was Steven Okazaki.  It took a little while to get around to Mifune, because the film starts off with historical information about the beginnings of the movie industry in Japan.  It was interesting to see silent Japanese films from the 1920s.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of this footage before.  I’ve read books about Akira Kurosawa before, so I didn’t learn much that was new about Mifune during the period from 1947 to 1965.  However, it was interesting to see the interviews with those who worked with Mifune and Kurosawa.  One of the actors appeared in a Godzilla film and “Seven Samurai” in the same year.  The period from “Shogun” in 1980 to Mifune’s death in 1997 gets a light and quick treatment.  I guess there wasn’t much to say about those later years.  Keanu Reeves did the narration, and it was annoying that he mispronounced Japanese words.  Two of the people interviewed were Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.  Spielberg described Mifune as an interviewed who seemed to have sprung out of the earth because he was so unusual.  The screening attracted a pretty good crowd for a documentary, although some people were there to see the Q&A with Okazaki after the movie ended.  I thought he was something like Al Franken, and he gave long, rambling answers, although he was not quite as long and rambling as Daniel Ellsberg.  He talked about the interviewees, many of whom were in their eighties and nineties.  They wanted to appear in this film to talk about Mifune and the special period in Japanese cinema history that they were part of.  Okazaki also mentioned how he got involved with the making of the film.  His initial thought was to create a history of the samurai film.  The difficulty would have been to secure the rights to use film footage.  He gave his thoughts on the rift between Kurosawa and Mifune, which probably wasn’t due to Mifune’s age, when you about “Kagemusha” and “Ran.”  Okazaki said that the changing economics of the movie industry affected the relationship between the two men, along with Mifune’s launch of a production company that left him responsible for two hundred employees.  Keanu Reeves was a humble man who arrived on his motorcycle to record his narration, and he was without an entourage or a lawyer.  He signed his release readily and without fuss.  Okazaki said that he did meet Akira Kurosawa and told him that he was a big fan, but Kurosawa’s reaction was rude.  Okazaki was involved with the film since 2014, and he had to work on this film and his film about heroin simultaneously for a while.  The film hasn’t been released in Japan yet.  I liked this movie, although it could have used some words from Mifune himself.  I thought back to the time I saw Toshiro Mifune at a screening of “The Hidden Fortress” during the 1980s.  He still looked like the manly movie star of his glory days rather than the man close to death from Alzheimer’s.  After I returned home, I watched the end of the Star Trek episode “The Tholian Web” and the Fred Astaire movie “Royal Wedding.”  Some of the people who died on December 11 include Sam Cooke (1964), Bettie Page (2008), and Ravi Shankar (2012).  Today is a birthday for Jermaine Jackson (62), Brenda Lee (72), Donna Mills (76), Rita Moreno (85).

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