Mifune: The Last Samurai

80 minutes 2015

Distilling the brilliant career of actor Toshiro Mifune, this concise documentary focuses largely on his artistic partnership with Akira Kurosawa but includes enough about Japan's film industry and the star's charmed life to engross fans and casual viewers alike. Seven Samurai (1954), Kurosawa's reworking of the long-popular chanbara (sword-fighting) genre, made Mifune, a former army aerial photographer who fell into acting by chance, an international sensation. He refined his screen persona—combining an earthy physicality with daring, integrity, humor, and compassion—in subsequent Kurosawa films as well as Hiroshi Inagaki's "Samurai Trilogy" (1954-'56) and Masaki Kobayashi's Samurai Rebellion (1967) before venturing to Hollywood to appear on TV and in big-budget theatrical features. Because Mifune made nearly 170 films, writer-director Steven Okazaki omits plenty; for more, read the thoroughly researched The Emperor and the Wolf by his cowriter, Stuart Galbraith IV. In English and subtitled Japanese.

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