A story of rival clans, hidden gold and a princess in distress, 'The Hidden Fortress' is a thrilling mix of fairy story and samurai action movie. It was Kurosawa's first film shot in the widescreen process of Tohoscope, and he exploited this to the full in the film's rich variety of landscape locations, including the slopes of Mount Fuji.
Sharp and Classic.
- The Hidden Fortress review by NW
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You rated this film: 5
I ordered this after seeing Higuchi’s “Hidden Fortress – Last Princess” by accident. That is a film made with great technical skill and beautiful use of colour. This one, however, is the better film. They are both, in truth, fairy tales and the realistic use of colour in the 2008 version is excellent – beautiful, indeed – but somehow withdraws both the sharpness and tension of the story and the suspension of disbelief which is essential for the best fairy tales. After all, “Hidden Fortress” was directed by Kurosawa, and that in itself guarantees all that is needed. The tension and sense of threat is pretty near continuous, while Kurosawa’s sense of humanity and compassion are ever present. The actual filming and setting deserve study – on those grounds the film is a model. It has all the direct strength of black and white so that the realism of colour does not distract from the essence of the action and there is no reliance on clever effects ... but I have a bee in my bonnet about that!
I had some doubts as I watched; perhaps there are some flaws? The two peasant conscripts are indeed cleverly used to give the main characters a foreground – but are they a bit too naïve, clownish and greedy ... they certainly are very noisy? Does that noisiness distort the balance of the story? (I have a problem in many Japanese films with the sound of Japanese dialogue: why does it seem to sound so harsh, fast and aggressive when in fact quite ordinary things are being said? Distracting.) The successive narrow scrapes and escapes, and Makabe’s superhuman martial successes strain credence – if you pause and think. Similarly, the happy ending pushes possible likelihood rather hard! Would any Japanese princess have ridden horses astride quite so readily? (It is easy to understand Japanese doubts about Kurosawa’s yielding to western influences ...) A fairy story ... a parable ... a very fine film.