Review: ‘Kumonosu-Jo’

From a purely cinematic standpoint, this Japanese adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth is all motion picture, an achievement of mood and photographic invention. Yet, little but the embellished plot skeleton of Shakespeare's masterpiece survives.

From a purely cinematic standpoint, this Japanese adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is all motion picture, an achievement of mood and photographic invention. Yet, little but the embellished plot skeleton of Shakespeare’s masterpiece survives.

Nevertheless, there is no overlooking the masterful direction of Akira Kurosawa, nor the agile, energetic and explosive camerawork of Asakazu Nakai. It is a film of shattering silences and overpowering bursts of action, of moments when the attention is stimulated only by the sinister rustle of silk and others when the screen reverberates with uninhibited sound and fury.

Leading Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune gives a ranting, raving, rooting, tooting performance in the central role. Isuzu Yamada is calm, cool, collected and appropriately despicable as Lady M.

The picture has been filmed in black-and-white. At first this seems odd, but the element of surprise vanishes when one beholds what has been accomplished by these artisans in the two basic shades.

Kumonosu-Jo

Japan

Production

Toho. Director Akira Kurosawa; Producer Shojiro Motoki, Akira Kurosawa; Screenplay Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryuzo Kikushima, Hideo Oguni; Camera Asakazu Nakai; Music Masaru Sato; Art Director Yoshiro Muraki, Kohei Ezaki

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1957. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Toshiro Mifune Isuzu Yamada Minoru Chiaki Takashi Shimura Akira Kubo Takamaru Sasaki

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