Attending the screening of Yojimbo and meeting Tatsuya Nadaki
Photos from the event
Summary of the day at the film festival
An appointment with a Kurosawa film and an encounter with a link to the legendary director:
From May 9 to May 18, the annual Japanese Film Festival in Los Angeles took place. Occurring since 2003, the festival originally displayed films that dealt with everyday life in Japan. However, the film festival expanded to cover all genres and different aspects of Japanese life. Like other film festivals, this one has its own share of incredible guests of people who had worked on Japanese films. Last year film festival had Nobuhiko Obayashi who was the director of the Japanese horror film HOUSE (Hausu).
This year’s film festival took place at locations in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and Irvine. It included a variety of films that covered several different genres including family dramas, comedy, action, and historical dramas along with short films and some Japanese animation.
In the case of the special guests this year, the list included legendary actor Tatsuya Nakadai. Nakadai has worked with some of the most legendary directors including Akira Kurosawa, of which he had his first role although it was a cameo in Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI (Shichinin no Samurai). Despite being in his early eighties, Nakadai continues to work on a variety of projects in film and theater, including running his own theater troupe where he helps train the next wave of Japanese actors.
For the film festival, they would show two films from his work with Kurosawa along with a documentary about the actor, titled TO LIVE, TO ACT: Tatsuya Nakadai. The two Kurosawa films were YOJIMBO (Yōjinbō), and HIGH AND LOW (Tengoku to Jigoku). The documentary and YOJIMBO would screen on Saturday in Los Angeles while HIGH AND LOW would screen on Sunday in Irvine.
As I already had seen HIGH AND LOW and heard from the website that Nakadai would most certainly show up at screening of YOJIMBO, I decided to go to the screening despite it being in LA while the screening of HIGH AND LOW took place close by my residence in Orange County. Furthermore, I had already seen HIGH AND LOW and had not seen YOJIMBO before. It was only later while there that I learned that he would actually show up at the HIGH AND LOW screening.
In terms of the crowd for the movie screening, it took up less than half of the room although no doubt the audience was excited for the screening of the movie due to the hushed conversations about the movie and of Nakadai’s long incredible work in cinema. Parts of the conversation dealt with a panel (which took place earlier in the day) that dealt with his documentary film. I was unable to go to that one due to the festival selling out tickets almost immediately.
YOJIMBO, which is Japanese for the word bodyguard, is a story of a Ronin wandering throughout Japan. One day, he walks into a village that is in the midst of a gang war. After inquiring about the status of the village and feeling disgust at the situation, the Ronin decides to stay in the village and rectify the situation by eliminating both gangs. Released in theaters in 1961, the film was an incredible success and Kurosawa’s next film SANJURO (Tsubaki Sanjūrō) underwent revisions to incorporate YOJIMBO.
For YOJIMBO, it is a very fun film although with some oddities that actually do help make it better. Mifune turns in a regular performance one would see from him working in film, particularly one in Kurosawa. Although his character learns more towards stern instead of comedic, even in stern serious moments, it is hilarious. The cast is also in excellent form with the standouts being Ejiro Tono, Daisuke Kato, and Tatsuya Nakadai who is definitely having a lot of fun playing a villain (and one that has a far better advantage by using a gun while the rest still use swords). In the case of Tono, he and Mifune play well off each other in their respective scenes. The musical score used for this movie is definitely one of Masaru Sato’s fine scores as it helps with action scenes as well as giving the movie a sense of good fun even with the swords and bullets start flying or about to start flying.
As it is famously well known, YOJIMBO and similar films helped give inspiration to the westerner movies in which the main character goes by the designation as “No-name” particularly in the Clint Eastwood movies.
When the movie concluded, the staff announced that Nakadai presence to the audience and he made his way up to the stage while accompanied by a host and interpreter. Unfortunately, the hosts announced that they would not allow us to take pictures before they turned to a small Q and A about the movie and Nakadai’s career in cinema. It first focused on Nakadai’s experiences on the film as well as his remaining close with the others that worked on the film and his admiration for Toshiro Minfune and his acting skills. He also added that despite it being a while seeing the film, particularly on the big screen, he is still very impressed by it.
I myself had a chance to ask a question (it was the last question allowed by the hosts before we had to vacate the theater). The question focused on the work that Nakadai did with Kurosawa which one he considered was his most interesting experience. Bemused a bit by the question, Nakadai commented on the number of films he worked with Kurosawa in which he had a major role before eventually settling in on HIGH AND LOW, which was the movie that the film festival would show the net day in Orange County.
Heading outside of the theater, I had several small conversations with fellow audience members where we discussed the film and a bit about the rules that he had to go through while inside the theater. I had considered at first staying around and seeing some of the other films but decided to stop for the day and departed for the long drive home.
Links related to the event.
- Tatsuya Nakadai - Explore - The Criterion Collection
A dynamic, handsome star who got his start in Japanese cinema during its 1950s golden age, the Tokyo-born Tatsuya Nakadai defies easy categorization. He is convincing whether playing a mercenary lone wolf or a heartsick love interest, a hero or a vil
- Akira Kurosawa - Explore - The Criterion Collection
Arguably the most celebrated Japanese filmmaker of all time, Akira Kurosawa had a career that spanned from the Second World War to the early nineties and that stands as a monument of artistic, entertainment, and personal achievement. His best-known f
- Japan Film Festival Los Angeles 2014 | May 9-18th, 2014
The main website of the Japan Film Festival Los Angeles
Trailer for the movie Yojimbo.
A re-mastered version of the movie Yojimbo as presented by the Criterion Collection.
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