Tatsuya Nakadai

Tatsuya Nakadai

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High and Low Review


Excellent
"Don't get too close, but don't take your eyes off him!" exhorts Chief Detective Tokura (Tatsuya Nakadai) to one of his assistants in Akira Kurosawa's intense crime drama High and Low. Tokura could just as well be directing the camera operator doing the distant setups in Kurosawa's distinctive telephoto lens manner. Kurosawa's style serves to optically mash all the actors together onto one confining plane as they uncomfortably breathe down each other's neck. The images populate the widescreen frame like a pressure cooker that is ready to blow up. And in High and Low, blow up they do.

Based upon Ed McBain's 87th Precinct crime novel, King's Ransom, Kurosawa transforms this pulp source into a morality play of good and evil with the stakes a man's redemption of his soul in a heartless world. High and Low is the English translation of the Japanese Tengoku to jigoku, but a more accurate translation would be "Heaven and Hell," and that is what the film conveys -- Heaven being the high-rise luxury home of National Shoe executive Kingo Gondo (Toshir? Mifune), high on a mountain overlooking the squalid Hell of juke joints, prostitutes, dope alleys, and poverty below.

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The Face of Another Review


Excellent
Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara didn't make many films before his death in 2001, but he left behind quite the cinematic reputation, most notably with the weird and unforgettable Woman in the Dunes (1964) and The Face of Another, an almost surreal Twilight Zone-like exercise in the ultimate identity crisis that has enough going on in it to fuel several film school dissertations.

We meet the bandaged Mr. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) as he is recovering from an industrial accident that has destroyed his face. Wrapped from the neck up like a mummy with eye and mouth holes, he's actually in decent physical shape and is sitting around at home wondering what to do with his life while his understandably skittish and distant wife (Machiko Kyo) darts around the apartment.

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Yojimbo Review


Excellent
Kurosawa's "Japanese Western" features the oft-retold tale of a sword-toting samurai in 1600s feudal Japan who finds himself without a master. He then sells his services to both sides of warring village, with rather disastrous results. Great beginning and ending, but drags a bit in the middle as ToshirĂ´ Mifune switches sides back and forth amid mutliple skirmishes. If you're looking for one of the original heroes who lives in a world not of black and white but of gray, you've found him in Mifune's swordsman. The film's effect has been palpable: Yojimbo remains a major Hollywood touchstone, having been notably remade as the far-inferior spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars by Sergio Leone, as well as Bruce Willis's Last Man Standing.

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Ran Review


Extraordinary
The average movie enthusiast has probably heard the name Akira Kurosawa mentioned with reverence in pretentious film-snob circles or in almost any film school, but chances are the average movie enthusiast probably hasn't bothered to ever really watch any of Kurosawa's films, which is a real shame. For in these films lies the expression of unbelievable talent - a poetry of motion and color - created and painted by a true master of the art of modern cinema. Now in theatrical reissue, casual moviegoers once again have the chance to see Ran, Kurosawa's masterpiece, on the big screen.

Kurosawa's closest colleagues addressed him as "sensei," a respectful and affectionate term meaning "teacher" or "master," and for good reason: He is without question, the master of Japanese cinema and an artist whose film legacy spanned 50 years of moviemaking. He influenced filmmakers such as Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese and countless others. For example, the movie A Fistful of Dollars was really nothing more than Western remake of the Kurosawa film Yojimbo, and The Magnificent Seven was a remake of Seven Samurai. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Kurosawa four times in his career, and Ran has won countless awards, including Best Film from the esteemed National Society of Film Critics. The film was Kurosawa's obsession for more than 10 years and he feared that the movie would never be made. When it finally did get financing, it became Japan's most expensive film ever made at the time.

Continue reading: Ran Review

Ran Review


Extraordinary
The average movie enthusiast has probably heard the name Akira Kurosawa mentioned with reverence in pretentious film-snob circles or in almost any film school, but chances are the average movie enthusiast probably hasn't bothered to ever really watch any of Kurosawa's films, which is a real shame. For in these films lies the expression of unbelievable talent - a poetry of motion and color - created and painted by a true master of the art of modern cinema. Now in theatrical reissue, casual moviegoers once again have the chance to see Ran, Kurosawa's masterpiece, on the big screen.

Kurosawa's closest colleagues addressed him as "sensei," a respectful and affectionate term meaning "teacher" or "master," and for good reason: He is without question, the master of Japanese cinema and an artist whose film legacy spanned 50 years of moviemaking. He influenced filmmakers such as Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese and countless others. For example, the movie A Fistful of Dollars was really nothing more than Western remake of the Kurosawa film Yojimbo, and The Magnificent Seven was a remake of The Seven Samurai. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Kurosawa four times in his career, and Ran has won countless awards, including Best Film from the esteemed National Society of Film Critics. The film was Kurosawa's obsession for more than 10 years and he feared that the movie would never be made. When it finally did get financing, it became Japan's most expensive film ever made at the time.

Continue reading: Ran Review

Yojimbo Review


Excellent
Kurosawa's "Japanese Western" features the oft-retold tale of a sword-toting samurai in 1600s feudal Japan who finds himself without a master. He then sells his services to both sides of warring village, with rather disastrous results. Great beginning and ending, but drags a bit in the middle. Most notably remade as the far-inferior spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars by Sergio Leone, as well as Bruce Willis's Last Man Standing.

Sword of Doom Review


Good
"Evil mind, evil sword." This is the mantra of Sword of Doom, Kihachi Okamoto's great 1965 samurai bloodletting. Tatsuya Nakadai's sword is a nihilistic bearer of death, responsible throughout the film for dozens of pointless murders, including an excruciating massacre that serves as the climax. This sequence, coming at the end of the countless deaths we have already seen, seems to take the violence into a higher plane of frenzy, almost as if the blade is injuring the very concepts of right and wrong. Thus is the sword of doom, and thus is Nakadai.

Trying to parse Nakadai's motives out of the gore is a difficult task. Some of the murders result from somewhat legitimate showdowns, especially later in the film when he is used as a killer for a Shogunate organization in decline. Yet other murders seem to come with the brutally simple justification of "practice," including the slaying of an elderly man (which will come back upon Nakadai later). Nakadai becomes an anti-hero in a true sense of the word. He becomes a figure of total nihilism as the film unfolds along its three-year plotline. His presence becomes like a specter of death, a mythological harbinger of the gravest misfortunate. Yet, he has no moral agenda, and little justification for actions, as if his conscience, the only thing that could make him human, was carefully excised from his mind. What results is a towering figure, deadly and frightening in his capriciousness.

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Kagemusha Review


Good
Before the epic rancor of Ran, Akira Kurosawa told a more intimate, but no less tragic story with Kagemusha. Also set in feudal Japan, but based on real events, the film tells the tale of a thief set in place to impersonate a dead warlord to prevent the warlord's enemies from gaining control. It's kind of like Dave, but much slower and in Japanese.

The film opens in 16th century Japan. Two warlords, Ieyasu (Masayuki Yui) and Nobunaga (Daisuke Ryu), take on a third, Shingen (Tatsuya Nakadai), for control of the country. So far, Shingen has them on the run. But a lucky sniper gets off a round that may or may not have killed the warlord. While his enemies wonder, a wounded Shingen demands that should he die, his passing be kept a secret for three years, lest his rivals be emboldened. When Shingen finally gives up the ghost, it's up to his brother Nobukado (Tsutomu Yamazaki) to come up with a plan to carry out those wishes.

Continue reading: Kagemusha Review

Kaidan Review


OK
Kaidan is the kind of film that washes over you without much worry for whether or not you're following its story. And considering the movie is based on four simplistic short stories/fairy tales (of Japanese origin -- I do not know how "classic" the stories are in Japanese culture), you probably won't care one whit whether the samurai returns to his true love after divorcing her to marry a rich woman, or whether a woodcutter breaks his promise not to tell other people about a snow spirit.

Continue reading: Kaidan Review

Tatsuya Nakadai

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