If you’re thinking too much Kurosawa is never enough, then Steven Okazaki’s Mifune:The Last Samurai is for you. A film that covers the life of the most famous Japanese actor since Sessue Hayakawa and reminds us just how good the films that represent his collaboration with the “perfectionist” Akira Kurosawa are, can’t be a bad thing.
The production reproduces the mainly black and white clips beautifully and it’s interesting to hear from Mifune’s collaborators. The women have aged remarkably well. Dealing with survivors has brought some unfamiliar names into the foreground.
That said, this one is for the choir. There is little on the actor’s pre-Rashomon career about which we know so little. His only other director to get any attention is the remarkable Hiroshi Inagaki and that for his Myamoto Musashi films. Inagaki's 1958 Muhomatsu no issho/The Rickshaw Man is well on the way to being Mifune’s best performance and it gets one still photo here.
Then there’s the discovery of the fact that while the juvenile did Seven Samurai in a bald cap, Takashi Shimura actually shaved his head for his part.
Director Okazaki’s documentaries and features extend back to the nineteen eighties. Keanu Reeves’ narration is unobtrusive, mainly adding a selling point to the production.