190 Throne of Blood

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scotty2
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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#51 Post by scotty2 » Sat Aug 07, 2010 2:08 pm

Just returned from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland having viewed the adaptation of Throne of Blood, among several other excellent productions.

The ninety-minute play follows the film as advertised, but is not a word-for-word rendering of Kurosawa's film. It is quite true to the film's narrative and look, however. Large-scale projections above the stage add a filmic touch--they allow for haunting images of castles, forests, birds, and the spirit's eyes to add texture to the scenes. Japanese actress Ako plays Lady Asaji to chilling effect, and the overall production design is as exciting as anything I've seen at OSF. The acting style employed tries to emulate the Noh-derived mannerisms of Kurosawa, but some of the company seemed more comfortable in this mode than others. But it was a production not to be missed.

I'm not sure how the Shakespeare crowd took it. I heard one express that he expected more of the subplots from "the Scottish play," having apparently missed the point that this is an adaptation from a Japanese film. There were in-jokes for the Shakespeare crowd--references to lines and titles from other plays ("a pound of flesh," "all's well that ends well")--but I'm sure the many AK allusions went past those not as well versed in world cinema: "the bad sleep well," "the hidden fortress," "stray dog," "the lower depths," and "high and low" all caught my ear.

Overall, an exciting afternoon of theater that did justice to Kurosawa's film and worked well on its own. I hope it goes on to have a life beyond Ashland so more people can see it.

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Svevan
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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#52 Post by Svevan » Sat Aug 07, 2010 8:28 pm

Thanks for the impressions. I just moved from Southern Oregon to New Mexico, and since at times I felt like the only person in the whole valley who had seen Throne of Blood, I was shocked to hear that OSF was adapting it (and obviously depressed that I missed it by about two weeks). But I got to see The Red Shoes on 35mm here in Santa Fe (twice!), with Ran and Breathless upcoming, so I guess I'm not complaining. Interesting to hear about the Noh style acting; indicates to me that the director was much more knowledgeable about Kurosawa than I presumed.

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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#53 Post by swo17 » Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:54 pm


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movielocke
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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#54 Post by movielocke » Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:49 pm

anything new, or is this a straight upgrade?

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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#55 Post by giovannii84 » Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:52 pm

movielocke wrote:anything new, or is this a straight upgrade?
It includes an episode of "Akira Kurosawa: it is wonderful to create"

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EddieLarkin
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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#56 Post by EddieLarkin » Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:20 pm

Beaver

Always preferred Hoagland's translation on this one. I have no idea if trying to make the dialogue more poetic and stylized has led to her taking a lot of liberties, but it makes for a much greater viewing experience if you ask me. Richie's, in comparison, seem to be too straightforward.

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HerrSchreck
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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#57 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:37 pm

Really am just the complete opposite (assuming these just duplicate the subs that are on the SD CC, which incidentally was one of the most exciting CC releases, along with Redbeard, back inna day . . . the whole package and the sublime quality of the film just excited me to no end back then), Hoaglund's translation just irks me via its choices.

I still believe that Redbeard is AK's masterpiece, easily sits alongside 7Sam.

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EddieLarkin
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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#58 Post by EddieLarkin » Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:46 pm

I'd appreciate examples Schreck, if you know of any of the top of your head. I have no real grounding in Japanese, so I can't tell how accurate (or wildly inaccurate) either of the two's choices are. I suppose it doesn't help that I (ashamedly) have never read Macbeth, despite it being sat on my shelf for over a decade.
Last edited by EddieLarkin on Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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HerrSchreck
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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#59 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:53 pm

I don't have it to mind right now whereby I have recall. I'm going to noodle around because I think I've discussed this before though.

And of course this is all subjective, no preference is the "correct" one.

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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#60 Post by ando » Mon Jun 12, 2017 2:43 am

scotty2 wrote:Just returned from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland having viewed the adaptation of Throne of Blood, among several other excellent productions.

The ninety-minute play follows the film as advertised, but is not a word-for-word rendering of Kurosawa's film. It is quite true to the film's narrative and look, however. Large-scale projections above the stage add a filmic touch--they allow for haunting images of castles, forests, birds, and the spirit's eyes to add texture to the scenes. Japanese actress Ako plays Lady Asaji to chilling effect, and the overall production design is as exciting as anything I've seen at OSF. The acting style employed tries to emulate the Noh-derived mannerisms of Kurosawa, but some of the company seemed more comfortable in this mode than others. But it was a production not to be missed.

I'm not sure how the Shakespeare crowd took it. I heard one express that he expected more of the subplots from "the Scottish play," having apparently missed the point that this is an adaptation from a Japanese film. There were in-jokes for the Shakespeare crowd--references to lines and titles from other plays ("a pound of flesh," "all's well that ends well")--but I'm sure the many AK allusions went past those not as well versed in world cinema: "the bad sleep well," "the hidden fortress," "stray dog," "the lower depths," and "high and low" all caught my ear.

Overall, an exciting afternoon of theater that did justice to Kurosawa's film and worked well on its own. I hope it goes on to have a life beyond Ashland so more people can see it.
Image
Very interesting. Hope it resuscitates somewhere here in the New York area soon.

I'm back into ToB tonight and I must say it's always the fog in the Cobweb Forest scene that pulls me back in - and, I suppose, rightly so since the supernatural was the main draw for Jacobean England audiences when The King's Men initially played Macbeth. Unlike Shakespeare, however, Kurosawa doesn't begin his film with an equivalent of the supernatural (the witches) but with the two formidable war-like figures of Miki and Washizu - a tip, probably, that this will be primarily a samurai film, not a horror story. It's in sharp contrast to the Polanski Macbeth, for instance, which has strong supernatural elements and is in many respects a horror film.

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Re: 190 Throne of Blood

#61 Post by ando » Mon Jun 12, 2017 3:25 am

Ah, I was wrong (The things you remember - and the things you don't!). The film actually proceeds with fog rolling across Mount Fuji with a male chorus chanting about the dangers of ambition and departed spirits walking the land - I had forgotten. Still, the emphasis is on the vainglorious dead and not the supernatural, per se, though Kurosawa generally paints the contrast of human nature and the supernatural as admirably ambiguous.

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Mr Sausage
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Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

#62 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Aug 19, 2019 9:26 am

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colinr0380
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Re: Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

#63 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Aug 21, 2019 4:15 pm

I'm curious as to whether anyone has a particular preference for one or the other of the subtitle tracks on the Criterion disc? The Linda Hoaglund subtitles are a bit more focused on easy comphrensibility, whilst the Donald Richie subtitles are a bit more about adding an extra e..g in the early scene of the Generals hearing about Captain Washizu and Miki are fighting heroically in the other castles we get the slightly differently worded line "Shall we strike or barricade ourselves in this castle?" in the Hoaglund translation compared to "What to do, shall we attack or stand a siege?" in the Richie one. I think I prefer the Hoaglund one, but the Richie subtitle track is an interesting experiment and presumably attempted to give a bit more of a Shakespearean flourish to the language again, if only in the subtitles.

On Throne of Blood itself, whilst it of course is taking as many liberties with the Shakespeare play as Ran would later do with King Lear it is difficult to imagine any other adaptation of Macbeth that could visualise the scene of stumbling upon the witches (or just one witch in this case) so well, from the full pelt riding through the forest in the thunderous rainstorm, to the eerily supernatural calmness of the clearing (along with swifly disappearing hut and cloak of the witch, as if they have been suddenly whisked off up into the rafters above the 'stage'! Or get a better Lady Macbeth in Izusu Yamada drifting through a scene quietly but purposefully (especially the scene of trying to wash the hands clean of blood). Or produce a better literalisation of 'Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane' at the climax.

It is like the entire film is taking place on some kind of ghostly plane of foggy desires.

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Big Ben
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Re: Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

#64 Post by Big Ben » Wed Aug 21, 2019 6:32 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Wed Aug 21, 2019 4:15 pm
I'm curious as to whether anyone has a particular preference for one or the other of the subtitle tracks on the Criterion disc? The Linda Hoaglund subtitles are a bit more focused on easy comphrensibility, whilst the Donald Richie subtitles are a bit more about adding an extra e..g in the early scene of the Generals hearing about Captain Washizu and Miki are fighting heroically in the other castles we get the slightly differently worded line "Shall we strike or barricade ourselves in this castle?" in the Hoaglund translation compared to "What to do, shall we attack or stand a siege?" in the Richie one. I think I prefer the Hoaglund one, but the Richie subtitle track is an interesting experiment and presumably attempted to give a bit more of a Shakespearean flourish to the language again, if only in the subtitles.

On Throne of Blood itself, whilst it of course is taking as many liberties with the Shakespeare play as Ran would later do with King Lear it is difficult to imagine any other adaptation of Macbeth that could visualise the scene of stumbling upon the witches (or just one witch in this case) so well, from the full pelt riding through the forest in the thunderous rainstorm, to the eerily supernatural calmness of the clearing (along with swifly disappearing hut and cloak of the witch, as if they have been suddenly whisked off up into the rafters above the 'stage'! Or get a better Lady Macbeth in Izusu Yamada drifting through a scene quietly but purposefully (especially the scene of trying to wash the hands clean of blood). Or produce a better literalisation of 'Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane' at the climax.

It is like the entire film is taking place on some kind of ghostly plane of foggy desires.
What I remember most however is Toshiro Mifune whose slow descent into panic (Literal of course in the famous arrows scene.) becomes one of my favorite performances of his. On the topic of subtitles specifically in this context I think I'm siding with you but mostly because I feel it's a bit more digestible. I'm being anal here but I much prefer something more direct rather than something that's localized.

On the film proper though I think it's probably my favorite adaptation alongside Welles' minimalist one. The only one I'm familiar with is Polanski's which is a far more blood soaked and adult affair that I've seemingly forgotten a great deal about. It's very much Macbeth but it's been viewed uniquely from a Japanese lense and it's been done, seemingly effortlessly. Obviously Macbeth has supernatural elements but how much is expressed depends on the production. Kurosawa really brings this to the forefront and had it not been based on existing material could have made for a pretty good supernatural story on it's own.

On the topic of culpability I believe Welles' version as I recall (It's been awhile apologies to you all) has the witches actively manipulating Macbeth to the point that he may not be entirely responsible for his actions due to supernatural control. Here in Kurosawa's version we have some of Kurosawa's favorite themes collide with Shakespeare and mankind's very real fallibility. I can't remember the details of the Polanski and I apologize (A refresher might help.). Always interesting to see how people interpret the Bard though, particularly through a specific cultural lense.

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Re: Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

#65 Post by ando » Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:47 pm

The thread is stealing a little thunder from the Shakespeare Mini-List but [i[/i] is amenable to copious interpretations.
Big Ben wrote:
Wed Aug 21, 2019 6:32 pm
On the topic of culpability I believe Welles' version as I recall (It's been awhile apologies to you all) has the witches actively manipulating Macbeth to the point that he may not be entirely responsible for his actions due to supernatural control. Here in Kurosawa's version we have some of Kurosawa's favorite themes collide with Shakespeare and mankind's very real fallibility. I can't remember the details of the Polanski and I apologize (A refresher might help.). Always interesting to see how people interpret the Bard though, particularly through a specific cultural lense.
Yes, I made a similar point about the perfect plausibility of witchcraft being a legitimate influence on the motivation for Macbeth to murder Duncan in Shakespeare's day. Puritans brought that mindset to The New World and we know what happened in Salem. The great thing about K's take on it is that the spirits in the Coweb Forest could just have easily been a phantom of Washisu and Miki's consciousness as an objective entity. And that distinction seems less important in K's film than in Welles' take. Polanski, of course, lays the onus almost entirely on mankind; in particularly, in the "laughable circularity of history" with his novel/twist of a conclusion (Fortinbras may be in for the same fate as Duncan!). With K's ending it's almost as if the army of men reject any buck passing with regard to culpability. They take Washisu out with no impunity.

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Re: Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

#66 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:25 am

I also like the point made in Michael Jeck's commentary on Throne of Blood that Lady Washizu is a bit more calculating and 'evil' than Lady Macbeth in the transference of some of the motivations for murdering Miki (the Banquo figure) and his son onto her alone, as compared to Washizu being happy to rule and then as prophesied pass the reigns of power onto Miki's son, she is actively demanding the murder. Compared to Lady Macbeth only really being majorly complicit in the murder of Duncan, Lady Washizu is far more involved, long term in outlook and is the one most concerned with legacy. In some ways Throne of Blood suggests that rather than Macbeth's insecurities, it is more her attempts to secure that legacy (by also casually throwing out that she is pregnant) that causes his downfall sooner rather than later.

Its interesting that the closest Shakespeare play in structure to Macbeth is probably Anthony and Cleopatra, also about an ambitious power couple tag-teaming their way to power but eventually being overwhelmed by their own internal struggles as much as the might of outside forces.

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Re: Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

#67 Post by ando » Fri Aug 23, 2019 5:21 am

colinr0380 wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:25 am
Its interesting that the closest Shakespeare play in structure to Macbeth is probably Anthony and Cleopatra, also about an ambitious power couple tag-teaming their way to power but eventually being overwhelmed by their own internal struggles as much as the might of outside forces.
Bit of a stretch there, Colin. After all, Cleopatra, from the outset is an open protagonist and partner to Anthony. They both initiate the action of the play. Lady Macbeth is the surrogate, even unconscious side (other half, if you will) to Macbeth. She has no agency without her husband. The same certainly cannot be said of Cleopatra; in fact, part of her allure is the power she wields as an independent or (in old Queen Bess' terms) absolute queen. Her power is not tied to any man, initially. There's no question of Lady Macbeth's allegiance; that she might suddenly get with Banquo or run away with McDuff after his wife is killed. She is as tied to Macbeth as Cleopatra is a cooperative but completely independent (personal) agent.

But you may be on to something with Kurosawa's handling of the role of Lady Macbeth. Asaji exerts a seemingly stronger mental influence on Washisu, though Shakespeare, from the start shows that Washisu's darker proclivities are waiting to manifest:
why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,
Against the use of nature?


It's Lady Macbeth who turns that horrid suggestion into a plan. But Asaji goes further by insisting that Washisu has no friends; that Miki and the Supreme Lord are in cahoots to destroy him and that politics is ultimately a game of bluffing and one-upmanship. It's an education Washisu may have not had spending most of his career on the battlefield, but we'll never know. He may have harbored these thoughts all along. And if it's the case then Asaji is more of the other face of Washisu than a partner in crime. The Noh treatment of her character re-enforces the wife role aspect of her situation; she's utterly hemmed in with respect to her physicality and thought processes. Everything in her life is in deference to Washisu's fortunes to the extreme. It makes her the most monstrous Lady Macbeth of them all.

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Re: Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

#68 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Aug 23, 2019 6:04 am

This is a little off topic but I would perhaps not entirely disagree about Cleopatra, but come at from a slightly different perspective in the sense that I agree that she definitely begins the play in a position of absolute power but rather loses that position of authority as soon as she falls in love with Anthony (a bit like the way Joan of Arc compromises herself with the Dauphin in Henry VI Part I). If anything Anthony and Cleopatra is all about that issue of being a woman in an age where women are bartered as love objects to forge diplomatic bonds between men and their countries (as shown most obviously in the subplot with Octavia, the most sympathetic character, being bartered into marriage with Anthony early in the play. Octavia supposed to keep Anthony 'in check' and his mind off the exotic Cleopatra). Cleopatra is in the rare and priviledged position of not having to be that in her position as ruler, but she is still facing immediately losing her position as soon as she marries any man and cedes her dominion to him.

But attraction to Anthony wins out. However ironically Anthony (like many of Shakespeare's ruling figureheads come to think of it!) proves himself rather ineffectual and weak as a commander of armies (and as a tactician and even at committing suicide!) and eventually Cleopatra has to step in and do all these things for him herself, now that she has allied herself with him in his cause. And that's really where I see the Macbeth parallels, in the sense of the female partner stepping in to complete a job half-done partly through commitment to her lover and partly more pragmatically to keep house and home from falling apart.

Though I do like the idea you bring up of Lady Macbeth being able to be the unconscious part of Macbeth too, which is something that the post murder scene in Throne of Blood emphasises by having Washizu in a kind of fixated daze whilst Lady Washizu grabs the spear from him, puts in the hand of one of the guards and then raises the alarm, at which point Washizu jumps up in a fierce rage and murders the guard, which is played in a way to suggest that he is suddenly regaining consciousness again (as if the entire murder was a dream he had been sleepwalking through) and acting 'honestly' from the alarm rather than seeming to be playacting in that moment.

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Re: Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

#69 Post by ando » Fri Aug 23, 2019 11:57 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 6:04 am
And that's really where I see the Macbeth parallels, in the sense of the female partner stepping in to complete a job half-done partly through commitment to her lover and partly more pragmatically to keep house and home from falling apart.
- In the initial doing but hardly in the maintenance! I see your overall point and can agree that there are common concerns with both women in dealing with men who don't have the ruthlessness required to carry out murderous plans to completion but Asaji cannot, as Cleopatra can, assume the leadership role altogether. In fact, she falls apart when it is obvious that Washisu has lost a strong hold on his political position and mental resilience. But, as I suggested, she was ever just the other face of Washisu; in a sense, the book where men may read strange matters. Now, there's no rule which said that Kurosawa had to abide by Shakespeare's conception of Lady Macbeth but it is remarkable, despite the transposition of a culture from the other side of the world, that he stayed true to the spirit of her character.

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Re: Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

#70 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:41 am

How do you feel about the other Shakespearean couple who seem to have connections to the central couple in Macbeth: Gloucester and Eleanor in Henry VI Part Two? Nell seems ambitious and egging her husband on to seize power for himself (though she is being manipulated by honeyed words by another shifty court advisor with ambitions of their own), and even gets caught consulting with witches to try and further their cause!

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Re: Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)

#71 Post by ando » Sat Aug 24, 2019 4:22 am

It's a great question that I wish I could answer but Henry VI is a play I've avoided. The trilogy, if you will, is so massive and contains so many characters, plots and sub-plots that I'd need a nice space of free time to do nothing else but read it. Until then I'm afraid I'll have pass but this discussion has led me to consider what Macbeth is about at it's center. I've generally regarded it as a play about an enormously imaginative warrior-poet and his wife's fall from grace. But in considering how the Macbeths deal with the murder of Duncan and its consequences more closely I believe Shakespeare is really considering 1) how difficult it is to kill a man and 2) how in killing another human being you ultimately destroy yourself (your humanity, at any rate - he'd tackle the exigencies of the self, per se, with Lear).

Shakespeare bumps people off without too much ado in the previous history plays but through the lens of this extremely self-centered couple we get to explore the psychological travail involved with murder. When Lady Macbeth says, A little water will clear us of this deed, how easy it is then! it is the biggest self-delusion of the play. The murder, slowly and surely, ruins both of them. Kurosawa makes this central issue on the difficulty of killing a man the heart of his film, enlarges its scope and makes a literal example of it with the film's conclusion. Much as I admire Ran and Seven Samurai, I really do feel TOB is his masterpiece.

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