Kevin Costner Is My Bodyguard Of Choice

I watched a friend's copy of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (Bodyguard), with the ever-groovy Toshiro Mifune, who I first saw in Rashomon when I was fourteen. Some of my fondest teenage memories are of watching Akira Kurosawa films or French action flicks with the fam, particularly Ran and Throne of Blood.

In my family's eyes Mifune, who was a favorite leading man for Kurosawa, is up there with Clint Eastwood in the Actor's Pantheon. Mifune is a lot like James Coburn and Clint Eastwood, and all of them featured largely in the 2001 documentary Kurosawa, which is absolutely fantastic. Kurosawa's relationship to Mifune, of course, gets a big chunk of space in the doc. Check it out if you have enjoyed even one Kurosawa film, it's very interesting.

Anyway, hadn't seen Yojimbo in something like nine, ten years (I'll admit that the only Kurosawa I regularly watch is Ran, and I haven't seen that in two or three years). I have, however, recently watched A Fistful of Dollars. We've got the quiet rogue warrior, the innkeeper, the coffin-maker, the beautiful wife, the bereaved husband, the favorite son, the frightening younger brother. It's all there baby. Man, it's the exact same story, just as The Magnificent Seven is of The Seven Samurai. The influence this guy had on American film-making really is something...

I really dig Eastwood's Man With No Name, and the very subtle amusement he diplayed when his plans worked out, but I appreciate the way Mifune played a more open, but somehow just as mysterious, Mulberry Man, who could laugh out loud.

(In case you're wondering, it's not a case of plagiarism, it's straight up very open "remakes" we're talking about)

If you all have not seen Ran or Throne of Blood, do. The former is the story of King Lear, and the latter of Macbeth. And they're not just "based on." They're certainly adaptations, they're not translations of Shakespeare, but Kurosawa manages to tell those stories, and tell them well: they're very Japanese, but Shakespeare's tales. Great stuff.

I'm a testosterone-filled guy, I know that (for example, my beard-growing powers are well above the norm), but it's a thoughtful sort of testosterone, an artistic kind of testosterone, and so I am able to ask: where would American film be without Akira Kurosawa or Sergio Leone?

It would be crediting those gentlemen too much to answer that question with something like singing in the rain, 'cause we got Bogart's labors and McQueen's ouevre without their assistance, but perhaps we could say that they saved the sixties.

And I still like Moulin Rouge.