Friday, May 21, 2010

#16: Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island

(Hiroshi Inagaki, 1956)

Much better. After a pretty good starter and a middle that sagged a bit, the final chapter in the epic Samurai series sends the story out a good note. Mifune's evolution through the three films is the same hero journey made famous 25 years later by Luke Skywalker, from young dreamer to brash adolescent to wise man. The final fight on the beach of Ganryu Island isn't the epic battle that finished the second film, where Mifune plows through dozens of foes, but is instead a meditative exchange of skills, a respectful fight to the death between two competitors who are fighting because they need to rather than because they want to.

As a whole, the trilogy didn't impact me the way Kurosawa's samurai films have. The love triangle wasn't really engaging, and many of Mifune's later performances are stronger. But there's no doubt that the film had a strong impact on later masterpieces, and the movie, like Gone with the Wind which it is often compared to, is essential viewing for understanding movie history, if not to really enjoy it.

One last note: this is the original chopstick catching flies movie! Take that Miyagi.

1 comment:

  1. Hey I linked to this post while looking for other blogs about Samurai III. I see you are on a quest similar to my own, though you appear to be making faster progress than me (and going about it more randomly!) I have a hard time blazing through these films, that's just me. I'm glad I found your blog and will enjoy reading your takes on the impressive treasures of the Criterion Collection. Let's compare notes sometime!