I hung out with film majors during my college years. It was great. Not only were they fun people, but I learned a lot about today's dominant story-telling medium. Some of my best memories revolve around marathon movie watching, particularly when several of the guys were going through the Akira Kurosawa phase. Recently, my wife and I have been using Netflix to boost our appreciation of great film and I suggested adding a good chunk of Kurosawa to the queue. So far, we've done Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood.
I don't think I've seen Throne of Blood (1957), Kurosawa's retelling of Macbeth set in feudal Japan, in about a decade. Watching it again last night reminded me why this film drew the admiration of T.S. Eliot himself. The black and white is used to maximum effect creating a world of shadows and mists that perfectly underscores the moral murk of the story. The special effects are simple and evocative. The acting is wonderful with Isuzu Yamada's portrayal of the Lady Macbeth analog, Asaji, as the best I've ever seen. Toshiro Mifune as the Macbeth character, Taketoki Washizu, is stellar as ever and wins the method acting god award for performing his final scene while under fire from real arrows. Most importantly, Kurosawa's adaptation stands completely on its own: no knowledge of the source material is necessary to appreciate this monument of cinematic art. Coming from the English speaking side of the equation, the transferal from original material to new composition is complete. It would have made that consummate borrower and adapter, Shakespeare, proud.
So, whether you're a film buff, a Shakespeare enthusiast, or just like a good story, consider moving Throne of Blood strait to the top of your Netflix queue. I did, and I wasn't disappointed.