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 Post subject: 190 Throne of Blood
PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2005 10:10 pm 

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Throne of Blood

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A vivid, visceral Macbeth adaptation, Throne of Blood, directed by Akira Kurosawa, sets Shakespeare’s definitive tale of ambition and duplicity in a ghostly, fog-enshrouded landscape in feudal Japan. As a hardened warrior who rises savagely to power, Toshiro Mifune gives a remarkable, animalistic performance, as does Isuzu Yamada as his ruthless wife. Throne of Blood fuses classical Western tragedy with formal elements taken from Noh theater to create an unforgettable cinematic experience.

Disc Features

- New, restored 2K digital film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary featuring Japanese-film expert Michael Jeck
- Documentary on the making of the film, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create
- Two alternate subtitle translations, by Japanese-film translator Linda Hoaglund and Kurosawa expert Donald Richie
- Trailer
- One Blu-ray and one DVD, with all content available in both formats
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Stephen Prince and notes on the subtitling by Hoaglund and Richie

Criterionforum.org user rating averages



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2005 12:29 am 
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Jeremy "The Movie Martyr" Heilman's review:

Quote:
In the first moments of Throne of Blood, Akira Kurosawa's self-assured reimagination of Shakespeare's Macbeth as a samurai epic, we see the Japanese landscapes that provide the backdrop for the action as they are enveloped in a thick mist. In the final moments of the film, after the people's plans have been thwarted and the mighty have fallen, we see the mist roll in to reclaim the land. By framing this tragic tale of human ambition this way, Kurosawa seems to be underscoring the futility of any such determination. Unlike Shakespeare, he doesn't even pause to show us the successor to the throne. At the end of this game, nature, not any man, is the true ruler of the land. Everything about Throne of Blood is similarly focused on an earthy insistence that these ambitions are entirely unnatural. Instead of chastising her husband's masculinity as Lady Macbeth did when Macbeth balks before killing the king, Lady Washizu prods her husband (Toshiro Mifune) onward by reminding him that the king himself killed his predecessor to ascend to the throne. This radical shift in the text slides the blame from Washizu specifically onto the culture at large. He's not transgressing the rules of his society so much as living up to its skewed standards.

Kurosawa's dim view of humanity in the face of nature in Throne of Blood is reflected everywhere visually. The forest spirit that prophesizes Washizu's fate (and recalls the medium from Kurosawa's Rashomon) is only the most overtly eerie benchmark of the consistently disturbing imagery that the film offers up. The shots of her spinning her silk as she sings a mysterious dirge of doom are scarier than any Western witch ever was. Nearly every visual that the film throws at us similarly seems as if it's been calculated to stir up unrest in the audience though. Kurosawa creates here a world with a real sense of scale, but then uses filters of rainfall, sunlight, and dust to create a moody atmosphere that you can't quite shake. When the forest begins to encroach upon Cobweb Castle at the end of the film, and birds begin to assault Washizu, Kurosawa's imagery creates the same sense of dread in the audience as in Washizu since it's so disturbingly unreal. He masks the soldiers that are carrying the bushes in a thick shroud of fog so that it seems as if nature itself is approaching the castle, ready to attack.

Kurosawa's tone is a little slower than usual here, but when compared to most Shakespeare adaptations, it's downright zippy. His focus on the battle scenes makes sense since they were the turning points of Shakespeare's narrative. Huge chunks of narrative fat have been sliced away, and the bits that are remain are often conveyed nearly exclusively in visual terms (most notably the silent night during which Washizu murders his liege). Mifune's acting has always been a bit theatrical, so his slight exaggerations here only add to the impact of what's such a strongly illustrated film. His reaction when his guilt causes him to see the ghost of his former king is only surpassed by the stunning finale in which he seems to be shot by a seemingly infinite rain of arrows. As imposing a caricature he is, Isuzu Yamada's Lady Washizu stands up to him as an equal. Her flat affect and emotionless demeanor make her sinister plots all the more unsettling. She's not the most sympathetic actress to have played Lady Macbeth, but she's one of the most frightening. It's only in the few moments where he pauses to show us the reactions of the peasants that Kurosawa's film stumbles. Although Kurosawa always likes to stratify the society that his films take place in, here the inclusion of the peasants' voices seems a more serious misstep than usual. Throne of Blood is a story of a man who attempts to challenge nature itself. To stop to listen to what the peanut gallery has to say seems utterly beside the point. Still, the film is hardly affected by what amounts to about three minutes of footage since it otherwise spins such a darkly compelling worldview.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2005 6:52 pm 
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Jeremy Heilmann wrote:
Kurosawa's dim view of humanity in the face of nature in Throne of Blood is reflected everywhere visually. The forest spirit that prophesizes Washizu's fate (and recalls the medium from Kurosawa's Rashomon) is only the most overtly eerie benchmark of the consistently disturbing imagery that the film offers up. The shots of her spinning her silk as she sings a mysterious dirge of doom are scarier than any Western witch ever was.

This is definitely the sort of thing that draws me to this film. I can't imagine any other Kurosawa film coming close to the kind of atmosphere this film evokes. The images of the samurai in the fog are unforgettable.

I wonder, what does everyone make of the subtitles for this?


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2005 7:01 pm 
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Steven H wrote:
I wonder, what does everyone make of the subtitles for this?

Oh, no! Can, open... worms, everywhere.

I sense the discussion headed towards a debate of whether great masters/artists/auteurs ever wanted crude language to be used in their films, where we start making assumptions of the artists intentions based upon our own preferences towards language. I'm sure those who perceive the directors they love to be civilized, cultured, and refined will say such language does not belong in these types of films and those that love to let the expletives fly will say the language being used has such course undertones. I just hope we get someone involved who actually speaks the languages under scrutiny.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:37 pm 
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A review for the BFI edition is up here.

In the user comments, user "spionkop" claims to have inside knowledge that Criterion are planning to revisit Throne of Blood, Rashomon, Red Beard and The Hidden Fortress with additional extras. Make of it what you will.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 2:15 pm 
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The Digital McGuffin wrote:
A review for the BFI edition is up here.

In the user comments, user "spionkop" claims to have inside knowledge that Criterion are planning to revisit Throne of Blood, Rashomon, Red Beard and The Hidden Fortress with additional extras. Make of it what you will.

The Criterion edition is a much finer transfer than that old Bfi edition. I doubt Criterion will be re-releasing new editions of Hidden Fortress, Rashomon, Red Beard or Throne of Blood in the near future, not while we're waiting for a new edition of Seven Samurai and anamorphic transfers of High and Low, Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Then there are Scandal and The Idiot (among others) to consider.

What spionkop indicates is something that we already know is an inevitability...


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 3:06 pm 
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I just rented this over the weekend and I have to say that it ranks up there with Seven Samurai as one of my all time faves. It wasn't my first viewing by a long shot but I've seldom scrutinized it with as much intensity (or given as much thought to it) as I have over the past few days.

Although it's a Shakespeare adaptation, the language (or, at least, translation) has none of Macbeth's frequent forays into psychological voids that stall the action - Kurosawa gives us fabulous visuals instead. The brilliant invention of the inscrutable Cobweb Forest, the impenetrable fog just outside its edges and the very real presence of the evil spirit within. These, in fact, are all extentions of Shakespeare's metaphors. Kurosawa takes Shakespeare's dramatic examination of evil much further in giving us a portrait of an ineffable aspect of humanity, not simply an abberation in a line of kings or a peek inside the mind of a sidetracked despot, which the viewer is left with in many film versions of the play (though, NOT necessarily, with the play as written).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:05 pm 

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I'm about to watch this for the first time, and am stuck with which subtitles to use. Anyone who's seen both have a recommendation?


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 6:55 pm 
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redbill wrote:
I'm about to watch this for the first time, and am stuck with which subtitles to use. Anyone who's seen both have a recommendation?

It's been a while since I've watched this but I do recall that Richie's subtitle translation seemed to flow more smoothly than Hoaglund's. Nevertheless, you should watch the film and judge for yourself.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:16 pm 
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At some point, someone truly fluent in both Japanese and English needs to compare the two subtitle versions with the original text. Right now, I see a lot of knee-jerk rejection of the new subtitles -- by people who don't understand the original Japanese.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:36 pm 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
At some point, someone truly fluent in both Japanese and English needs to compare the two subtitle versions with the original text. Right now, I see a lot of knee-jerk rejection of the new subtitles -- by people who don't understand the original Japanese.

No knee-jerking here, although I fully appreciate Hoaglund's translation, I thought it a bit formal, though it might actually be the more accurate of the two. It's a matter of whether it falls more trippingly on eyes or not... :wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:52 pm 
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> No knee-jerking here

I wasn't referring to you. kinjitsu. ;~}

But I do feel LH has gotten an awful lot of unwarranted abuse here (and elsewhere).


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 9:09 pm 
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kinjitsu wrote:
> No knee-jerking here

Michael Kerpan wrote:
I wasn't referring to you. kinjitsu. ;~}

I didn't think you were.

Michael Kerpan wrote:
But I do feel LH has gotten an awful lot of unwarranted abuse here (and elsewhere).

Abuse here is expected... but from whom elsewhere?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 11:28 am 
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Linda Hoaglund on translating subtitles.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:49 pm 
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"If you are interested in the Kurosawa movies staring by Toshiro Mifune,
youcan check thier screening schedule here."

If that's an example of the proofing on offer from Camp Hoaglund, count me out. I will add at this opportunity, though, that I, unlike others, did enjoy her commentary for HomeVision's Under the Flag of the Rising Sun.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:58 pm 
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> If that's an example of the proofing on offer from Camp Hoaglund, count me out.

This is what I dislike. The typos you criticize were clearly not part of what LH wrote....


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 3:01 pm 
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That's why I said 'Camp Hoaglund'. It's all the same page.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 3:28 pm 
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Matango wrote:
"If you are interested in the Kurosawa movies staring by Toshiro Mifune, youcan check thier screening schedule here."

If that's an example of the proofing on offer from Camp Hoaglund, count me out.

Michael Kerpan wrote:
This is what I dislike. The typos you criticize were clearly not part of what LH wrote....

And it has nothing whatsoever to do with the text in her article. What nonsense!


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 3:43 pm 
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Matango wrote:
That's why I said 'Camp Hoaglund'. It's all the same page.

The Consulate General of Japan in New York is part of "Camp Hoaglund"?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 3:48 pm 

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I have only watched the disc using the first subtitles that appear on play; I think these are the ones by Hoaglund. I watched a few parts briefly using the other subtitles, and they do not seem as good (in my opinion).

However, I remember there being quite a difference between with the subtitles. Neither seem really 'excellent', but the first ones were still good. Perhaps the reason I feel that neither translation is really great is because both translations show that the other is missing some important aspect. Perhaps the dialog for the movie is just very difficult to translate into english.

I appreciate the fact that Criterion included two translations on the disc (next time I will have to watch the entire movie with the secondary translation). I would suggest watching the primary translation for your first viewing, though.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 4:46 pm 
wax on; wax off
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Is there a reason why Hoagland is unpopular on the forum...or elsewhere for that matter? I've watched the movies and they seem fine to me, but I don't know Japanese so have no point of reference. Given her background I believe she at least has some understanding. Of course, when she starts singing about "liberties" and "brazen" I am a little concerned. Then there's "shit" in Ikiru (that was her wasn't it?), but that comes down to context and language shift. The word for "shit" in Hungarian is slightly more admissable--in the classroom, polite company, etc.--than in English; so here I would have to defer to our Japanese posters whether to hit the panic button.

And...well, hate to get all PC and all...but is there a perhaps a little scepticism when a woman enters the hallowed halls of cinema? at least on the wrong end of the camera/production end?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:23 pm 
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Quote:
This spring, Criterion commissioned me to re-subtitle seven of Kurosawa Akira's classics: Seven Samurai, Ikiru, Throne of Blood, Stray Dog, The Bad Sleep Well, Drunken Angels and I Live in Fear. The new subtitles, laser-printed onto newly restored prints for a traveling retrospective of Kurosawa films starring Mifune Toshiro, are scheduled for release on DVD.

What I want to know is this: When can we expect Drunken Angels and I Live in Fear?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:41 pm 

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Like I said, from what I have seen of both subtitles on 'Throne of Blood', I prefer Hoagland's translation. However, she does have a tendency of making the subtitles noticeable and distracting at times.

I pointed out that the 'Lower Depth' subtitles are shit, and Ikiru is annoying at times. But, on the whole she doesn't make 'totally' awful translation, just not really great ones. And, she is defiantly does take too many liberties. I would prefer to at least have a more literal translation, and perhaps have a more liberal translation as the 'secondary translation' ;).

It seems like she is translating for a minority; most of the audience of these films will have some idea of the country and period that the film was set and/or made in. These are 'classic' films; they do not have to be made accessible to the average movie going public, who will probably never watch it anyway.

While it is nice of her to try to make a movie more accessible to a western audience, they are still Japanese movies. It would be even nicer if the translations didn't stick out and remove the audience from the experience of time and place that the film was set/filmed. I would rather let the film talk to me, rather than the subtitles re-interpreting the original vision.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:59 pm 
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skuhn8 wrote:
Is there a reason why Hoagland is unpopular on the forum...or elsewhere for that matter? I've watched the movies and they seem fine to me, but I don't know Japanese so have no point of reference. Given her background I believe she at least has some understanding. Of course, when she starts singing about "liberties" and "brazen" I am a little concerned.

I haven't a problem with her translations and am not the least bit concerned, but I think MK might have an answer as to why Hoagland is so unpopular around here and elsewhere.

skuhn8 wrote:
Then there's "shit" in Ikiru (that was her wasn't it?), but that comes down to context and language shift. The word for "shit" in Hungarian is slightly more admissable--in the classroom, polite company, etc.--than in English; so here I would have to defer to our Japanese posters whether to hit the panic button.

I watched recently Ikiru again and although there are other expletives, I don't recall the word "shit" being used. ; - )

skuhn8 wrote:
And...well, hate to get all PC and all...but is there a perhaps a little scepticism when a woman enters the hallowed halls of cinema? at least on the wrong end of the camera/production end?

It's called misogyny, not skepticism!

If there is a wrong end to the hallowed halls of cinema, then where is the exit?

tryavna wrote:
What I want to know is this: When can we expect Drunken Angels and I Live in Fear?

Same here. She mentions this in the Throne of Blood booklet as well, and three years have passed without a hint of either film being released anytime in the near future. That said, they will probably make an announcement in this month's newsletter.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 9:50 pm 
Not PETA approved
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Quote:
It's called misogyny, not skepticism!

To be fair, isn't outright hatred going a bit far? Sexism seems less extreme. Now whether this is true of any posters or not I don't know.

As for the subtitles, I remember preferring Richie's, but it's been a while since I compared either. However, I was not distracted by Hoagland's subtitles--they served their function nicely, I thought. Same with Ikiru, who I know some members (Narshty, for example) took issue with. The inclusion of swearing or slightly American idioms left so little effect on me that I wouldn't have known they were there afterwards had not it been pointed out to me. When I remember movies I recall images, not subtitles (unless they are so atrocious I cannot focus on the film, something that cannot be said for Hoagland's work).

I am however concerned with her Seven Samurai comments, which are enough to make me hold on to my still perfectly watchable Criterion copy. I would also probably agree with Jcelwin's earlier comments. With translations I tend to prefer literalness to liberty for the sake of some misplaced notions of moulding popularity or public opinion. I find Seven Samurai hilarious enough as it is.


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