Toshiro Mifune (1920-1997) was the greatest actor from the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema and appeared in 170 films. He is best known for his 16-film collaboration (1948-65) with filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in such films as RASHOMON, SEVEN SAMURAI. THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, and THRONE OF BLOOD (an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth.) Mifune twice earned the Best Actor Prize at Venice Festival for YOJIMBO (1961) and RED BEARD (1965).
Narrated by Keanu Reeves, this documentary explores Mifune’s life and career with archival footage and interviews with Mifune’s family and co-stars. Toshiro Mifune was born in China to Japanese parents in 1920. At 19 he was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army aviation division and set foot into Japan for the first time as a soldier in World War II.
Defeated, the post-war years in Japan were difficult. Samurai movies became a great source of comfort, given the samurai’s role of honor and stoicism in Japanese history. Mifune never intended to become an actor, in fact, he applied to become a camera assistant, at Toho, Tokyo’s famous film studio. But the studio was in need of actors.
Life as a contract actor in Tokyo was not easy or glamorous. Once a movie was finished, a new one began the very next day. It wasn’t until he was chosen as Akira Kurosawa’s leading man that Mifune was able to begin making films that he would be proud of. Together, they created the genre of the wandering warrior protagonist that would later inspire filmmakers as diverse as Sergio Leone, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and George Lucas. Clint Eastwood credits Mifune as inspiration for his own iconic Western characters.
Toshiro Mifune gave some of the finest performances in film history that audiences still marvel at today. This documentary is a thoughtful and loving tribute to the man and the actor.
In honor of Toshiro Mifune, HIFF will present a special screening of RASHOMON on the big screen before the first screening of MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAI. This film is nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid Award for Best Documentary.