Jslk’s review published on Letterboxd:
Signals in Noise. It’s a strange sensation when you encounter an acclaimed film and you can see exactly why it’s so good, but you’re simply not drawn into it. For me, the most conspicuous example is “Blade Runner.” I intellectually appreciated it, but was also emotionally disconnected, as if there was an invisible barrier that was somehow preventing me from fully embracing it. At around my fourth or fifth viewing, something magically clicked, and I was wholly absorbed into its world, and finally saw what so many people had raved about for so long. The same thing goes for this film. I first saw this when I was around 17. It was during my initial Kurosawa discovery, where I splurged through as many of his films that I could. This was the first movie of his that didn’t immediately connect with me. It’s technical mastery, and grand scope is plain as day to see, but there was an emotional dissonance I felt towards it that was similar to what I felt with “Blade Runner.”
Finally reviewing it again, it predictably moved wayyyy up in my personal estimation. Kurosawa utilized a lot of techniques to give it a deliberately detached atmosphere, like nearly entirely eschewing the use of close-up and medium shots. But other elements that initially grated on me, like Tatsuya Nakadai’s central performance as Hidetora, came off much better this time around. I now feel that the exaggerated manner of his acting style fits the movie extremely well, as a more subdued performance would’ve brought everything down to a much too low frequency considering the overall detached aesthetic the film has. His performance in its raw physicality reminded me a lot of Klaus Kinski’s performance in “Aguirre: the Wrath of God,” in that they both seem to be mainly evoking animals or beasts in their twisted, overemphasized contortions.
Just like “Blade Runner,” I also think a big reason why I’m now able to emotionally connect to this, is because I’m simply older and can now appreciate its more mature existential themes (besides the usual feelings of teenage angst, how many of you as teenagers truly ruminated on concepts like your own mortality and legacy?). I really don’t have much more to add, since so much has already been expounded on this film’s themes and merits. Kurosawa’s films in general are also usually thematically very open and thus easy to understand. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way either, as I personally consider him to be the greatest filmmaker of all time. This was just a rare example for me of a classic film that I always intellectual appreciated but could never really connect with, and where I did eventually manage to attune myself to its particular wavelength and be fully immersed into the world and vision it created.