Kakukshi-Toride No San-Akunin (1958) (aka The Hidden Fortress)
“Get away from me! You stink of dead bodies!”
Japanese cinematic master Akira Kurosawa has always been a source of inspiration for both contemporary and future film makers. Right from Sergio Leone to Kamal Haasan, every one who has come across his films have been entranced by it. Kakukshi-Toride No San-Akunin (1958), which is considered one of Kurosawa’s finest, apparently inspired George Lucas to script the characters and the narration in the Star Wars franchise based on the two slaves of the film.
Tahei and Matakishi are two slaves who dream of making big business during the war time. They are always fighting and trying to pull each others’ leg. They escape from a concentration camp and stumble upon some pieces of gold and discover that there is more where that came from. They are led by Rokurota Makabe who seems to have all the gold hidden at a secret place. They strike a deal with him wherein they get a share of the gold if they help him smuggle the gold across the heavily guarded border into another country. The gang go through a variety of dangerous situations, every time being saved by Rokurota Makabe. Gradually, they learn that Rokurota Makabe is not a lay man but he is the general of the Akizuki country and is in charge of getting Akizuki’s national treasure and its princess to the right place. The journey not only enlightens the princess about the plight of her subjects but also acts as a medium of settling the differences between the bickering duo.
“Unconventional” doesn’t start to describe this film that refuses to go traditional. Right from the starting conversation that is introduced without an establishing shot (that is reminiscent of the Tarantino age) to the style of narration of the story as viewed my the minor characters of the plot instead of the protagonists, the film breaks the canons of film making one by one with the action and thrill kept intact. Toshiro Mifune is majestic as ever with the right blend of the arrogance and humour. The film was the recipient of the FIPRESCI award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1959.