Hidden Fortress, The

Director: Akira Kurosawa

This is the most light-hearted of all Kurosawa’s period moviesoa romantic comedy-action adventure full of spectacle and swashbuckling set-pieces, heart-stopping single-combat and split-second escapes. A feisty teenage princessoclad, for most of the film, in a very fetching pair of shortsois on the run from her enemies, protected only by her faithful general (played by the indispensable Mifune). But most of the action is reflected not through these heroic figures but through a pair of squabbling, greedy and cowardly peasants, who find themselves unwillingly dragooned into helping the fugitives. The Hidden Fortress was Kurosawa’s first film in Scope, the wide-screen ratio that he adopted for almost all his subsequent movies: he uses it with instinctive mastery, and his delight in its possibilities is palpable. The film proved to be one of the director’s greatest box-office hits, and its influence spread far beyond Japan. Twenty years later, George Lucas borrowed the plot for the first of his Star Wars series.
Japan, 1958. English subtitles. Black and white. Anamorphic. 138 mins.

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