The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress ★★★★½

Absolutely a proto-star wars. You have a lightsaber battle, a speeder bike chase, two amusing droids, a princess, and even a jedi mind trick or two. This movie is a cacophony of contrasting registers—a farce, a hero’s journey, a coming of age narrative, a historical epic—and the music of all of these together is absolute candy. I figured this would be entertaining; I did not expect it to be quite this entertaining.

The movie has not aged well in one respect: the two fool characters keep making comments about raping the princess, only the movie doesn’t understand these comments as being about rape per se, but any viewer watching now would have to. There’s a scene where they’re chasing her, and she’s keeping them back, and it’s played in this sort of lightly comedic way, but watching it now is actually chilling. These two characters are clearly not on Yuki’s level in terms of savvy or their ability to handle themselves, but the present day viewer knows all too well that that doesn’t mean the worst won’t happen. The movie seems to assume that the audience won’t take these characters too seriously; watching it now, it’s actually a pretty educational experience. The movie is dramatizing something completely different than it set out to do; these scenes want to play as light comedy but they really come off as horror.

One thing that was kind of amazing: the main characters all attend a “fire festival” and then reflect on the experience in a scene near the end. It was during this latter “fire festival” reference that the audience started chuckling, and then everybody realized why they were chuckling, and then there was even more chuckling. Nobody expected a Fyre Festival reference in this movie, and a crowd of folks gradually realized they were in a room full of people who had seen or heard about or been talking about the two recent documentaries. It was the rare moment in a movie theater where everybody was sharing an inside joke that wasn’t just laughing at, like, perceived unintentional comedy or something. So much laughter at movies feels like self-congratulatory or performative and this was actually just, to me, a genuinely funny and surprising moment that the whole audience shared.

And then, right at the end, Toshiro Mifune one-hand grabs a character onto his horse and it was literally the most badass thing I’ve ever seen and he totally saved this nice person’s life! Great move, dude.

Anyways, this movie is outrageously great and I kind of can’t recommend it enough.

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