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January 02, 2017

MIFUNE: THE LAST SAUMRAI

MifuneWhile not the in-depth character study of the prolific Japanese actor that its title implies, “Mifune: The Last Samurai” is a rollicking survey of the gifted artist who played muse to Akira Kurosawa for much of the director’s storied career.

Keanu Reeves provides charismatic voice-over narration in telling an abbreviated (read sanitized) version of Toshiro Mifune’s transition from son to Japanese missionaries living in China, to Japanese Imperial Army soldier during World War II, and on to becoming one of Japan’s most highly regarded actors.

Predictable interview segments with Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese put Hollywood’s stamp of approval on Mifune’s well-crafted character creations in films such as “Rashomon,” “Seven Samurai,” "Yojimbo," and “Throne of Blood,” all of which are referenced in essential clips. Never mind that Hollywood only recently included Mifune in their "Walk of Fame," long after his death in 1997.

Mifune

“Mifune: The Last Samurai” functions best as an introduction to one of Cinema’s most disciplined and unique actors. Watching this documentary should have the desired effect of inspiring its audience to seek out some of the more than 150 films that Toshio Mifune starred in, to witness the nuance, humor, and untamed fury of his dynamic performances. There are only a handful of actors in the history of Cinema that have created anything close to the number of indelible characterizations that Mifune made palpable on the big screen. Indeed, no other actor embodied the tragic face of the samurai legend and legacy as did Toshiro Mifune.

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Not Rated. 80 mins. (B-) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

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