Movie Review: Mifune: The Last Samurai analyzes the universal appeal of a Japanese actor

Given that the Toshiro Mifune biographical documentary Mifune: The Last Samurai is only 80 minutes long, it’s a bold choice by director Steven Okazaki to wait until 15 minutes into the film to get to the birth of the man himself. The doc’s introductory passages don’t trace Mifune’s family lineage; instead, they cover the importance of the samurai to Japanese history and popular culture, and trace the origins of the “chanbara” film to the earliest days of cinema. Named to evoke the sound of swords clashing against swords, chanbara pictures relied on stock characters and situations to retell the tales of Japan’s past, as an expression of what the nation saw as its core values. When Mifune teamed up with director Akira Kurosawa for a series of revisionist samurai films in the ’50s and ’60s, they found receptive audiences all over the world for a …

Given that the Toshiro Mifune biographical documentary Mifune: The Last Samurai is only 80 minutes long, it’s a bold choice by director Steven Okazaki to wait until 15 minutes into the film to get to the birth of the man himself. The doc’s introductory passages don’t trace Mifune’s family lineage; instead, they cover the importance of the samurai to Japanese history and popular culture, and trace the origins of the “chanbara” film to the earliest days of cinema. Named to evoke the sound of swords clashing against swords, chanbara pictures relied on stock characters and situations to retell the tales of Japan’s past, as an expression of what the nation saw as its core values. When Mifune teamed up with director Akira Kurosawa for a series of revisionist samurai films in the ’50s and ’60s, they found receptive audiences all over the world for a ...